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Unnecessary branding risks could bring IP disputes to a head

Mar 9, 2020 | Trademark

Branding can be critical to the success of a product. Everything from the packaging and label to the name and advertisements has the power to identify a product and influence buyers. Because it is such a powerful element for a product, branding is often highly protected by companies holding trademarks or copyrights.

This is especially evident in highly competitive, crowded industries. For instance, the craft brewing industry has exploded in recent years. There are over 100 such breweries in Minnesota alone. And in such a dynamic industry, being creative and clever with branding is vital. However, some companies take branding risks that fail to pay off.

Branding difficulties brewing

When it comes to product branding, the goal is often to create something distinct and attractive. However, the brewing industry, in particular, has seen many companies attempt to do this only to discover their designs violate another company’s intellectual property ownership.

This article explores some specific examples of recent clashes between craft brewers. Basically, though, multiple breweries have wound up with the same names, similar logos, misleading advertisements or labels that use characters or colors unique to another company.

Deliberate, provocative or coincidental?

In some cases, similarities between two products are intentional. One company may deliberately copy another party’s design, hoping it won’t get caught.

In other cases, using protected material may reflect an attempt to be provocative. A business might hope that copying another company or making inaccurate statements will generate a buzz.

There are also situations in which similarities are purely coincidental or accidental.

Whether a violation is intentional or not, know that it is still a violation.

Is it worth the risk?

Using another party’s intellectual property without permission may seem like a harmless way to attract customers or simply unavoidable. However, violating IP ownership laws can have serious consequences.

For example, a brewery may need to destroy existing stock, pull its product from shelves and/or redesign labels that infringe on another company’s property. These measures can be high prices to pay for what may have been, at best, a fleeting success. The non-infringing party could also file a legal claim against the infringing party seeking damages, which could be considerable.

In other words, misusing intellectual property can be a costly risk that is not worth taking.

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