Matthew McLaughlin was a recent guest to discuss intellectual property challenges for craft brewers on the seminal podcast “The Business of Craft Beer” from the University of Vermont.
With the expansion of craft beer across the country, you’re seeing experienced brewers move around, and potentially, secrets or intellectual property can “walk out the door” with the brewers.
Another problem on the rise is the similarity of names and labels for varieties of beer or entire brewers. So what does the management and ownership of a brewery do to defend against or combat infringement on their intellectually property?
Greg Dunklin, host of the “Business of Craft Beer” podcast, posed those and other questions to Matthew.
With the U.S. trending toward 6,000 breweries by the end of the year and the maturation of the industry, it is becoming more of a problem particularly for brewers who started as small, local breweries (or who moved from home-brewing and hobbyist pursuits into the business) and didn’t worry as much about their legal structure.
Matthew also discussed best practices and pragmatic solutions for breweries to implement to protect the intellectual property of a brewery, particularly for breweries that want to grow and gain distribution, but need to overcome any sort of legal hurdles that a distributor would worry about when signing a new brewery.
Matthew and Greg discuss naming beers in depth, including the challenge of trademarking names or choosing beer names that reference celebrities or iconic landmarks. It’s not always easy to come up with creative names for beers, and how important it can be to “clear” potential beer names to make sure they don’t infringe on other’s trademarks—or that they are distinct and appropriate for potentially trademarking themselves.
They also discusses a range of issues touching on trade secrets (when it comes to recipes or brewing processes), non-compete agreements, partnership or employment agreements and more.