craft beer laws

Columbia? Taken. Mississippi? Taken. Sacramento? El Niño? Marlin? Grizzly? Sorry, they’re all taken.

Virtually every large city, notable landscape feature, creature and weather pattern of North America — as well as myriad other words, concepts and images — has been snapped up and trademarked as the name of either a brewery or a beer. For newcomers to the increasingly crowded industry of more than 3,000 breweries, finding names for beers, or even themselves, is increasingly hard to do without risking a legal fight.

Candace Moon, a.k.a. The Craft Beer Attorney, is a San Diego lawyer who specializes in helping brewers trademark ideas and also settle disputes. Moon tells The Salt she has never seen a brewery intentionally infringe upon another’s trademarked name, image or font style. Yet, with tens of thousands of brands in the American beer market, it happens all the time.

“There are only so many words and names that make sense with beer, so it’s not surprising that many people will come up with the same ideas,” Moon says.

Craft Brewers Are Running Out Of Names, And Into Legal Spats

Illustration: Leif Parsons for NPR