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Craft Brewers Keep Accidentally Infringing on Each Other's Trademarks

It's getting harder and harder to come up with original beer names.

Craft brewers are running out of original names.
Craft brewers are running out of original names.
TheDigitel Beaufort/Flickr

As the craft beer industry continues to boom, brewers are running out of ideas — as far as clever names for their beers go, anyway. This morning NPR's The Salt reported that "for newcomers to the increasingly crowded industry of more than 3,000 [craft] breweries, finding names for beers, or even themselves, is increasingly hard to do without risking a legal fight."

A lawyer from America's craft beer capital of San Diego tells NPR that "she has never seen a brewery intentionally infringe upon another's trademarked name, image or font style," but nonetheless, "it happens all the time." They cite several specific instances where multiple breweries have independently thought up the same beer names, particularly when it comes to "hop-centric puns" like Hopscotch or Bitter End, for example.

Resolutions for these situations can vary: While it often involves cease-and-desist letters and lawsuits (real or threatened), in some cases the breweries decide to come to a mutually beneficial agreement. According to NPR, when Colorado brewery Avery and California's Russian River Brewing realized they both had a beer called Salvation, they decided to blend their two brews for a new beer called "Collaboration Not Litigation."

As breweries run out of fresh ideas, they're also apparently falling back on some historical figures that they maybe shouldn't: Per a report from the Chicago Tribune today, a Connecticut brewery stirred up controversy when it made the questionable decision to name an IPA after Gandhi.

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