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November 2019
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Beer Trademarks At Record High In UK As The Locking Up Of Language Continues To Boom

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We've been on this for some time now, but the explosion in the craft brewing industry has led to a likewise explosion in trademarks for individual brews and breweries. It's a problem very specific to the craft brewing industry for a number of reasons. First, this trademarking practice deviates from the tradition in the industry, which was one in which craft breweries were largely amicable and permissive with their cleverly named beers. Second, the explosive growth is quickly running into a roadblock of language, in which only so many words can be combined to name brews, even as the number of those brews on offer continues its exponential growth. Third, and perhaps most importantly, craft brewing is now big business, such that many macro-breweries are now gobbling up craft breweries, and those macros tend to be more litigious and more often engage in trademark bullying.It's why, for several years now, we've talked about the coming trademark disaster for the industry, including highlighting legal experts for that industry trying to sound the alarm bells. None of this has slowed down the problem however, with the latest being that, to nobody's surprise, 2018 was a record year for beer trademarks being granted in the UK.

The number of trademarks registered for beer in the UK has hit a record high in 2018, jumping 6% to 2,519, up from 2,372 in 2017*, says RPC, the City-headquartered law firm. RPC says the continued boom in demand for craft beer and an increased range of low-alcohol beers has driven up the number of trademark registrations.RPC adds that the rise in beer trademarks is being further driven by the demand for low-alcohol and alcohol-free beer, which has resulted in a proliferation of new low-alcohol beer brands. This demand is partly driven by younger generations, more of whom are going ‘teetotal’ or choosing to cut back on their alcohol intake for health purposes. UK sales of non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirits reached a record high of £57m last year** - an increase of 39%.
This. Is. Not. Sustainable. It just simply isn't. If this industry is going to continue to grow, with that growth being good for literally everyone other than the largest breweries, this trademark-it-all attitude is eventually going to represent a brick wall. And we've already seen what this has meant for the industry, with a severe uptick in trademark disputes between breweries. Given how this industry operated for years and years, there is literally no reason why Techdirt's pages should be filled with stories about beer-related trademark disputes. And, yet, here we are.And it's worth remembering that more trademarks mean exponentially more legal disputes, as overly aggressive legal teams see infringement shadows everywhere they turn.
RPC adds that as the number of beer trademarks continues to grow, so too does the likelihood of more legal battles over trade marks taking place. For example, Manchester based Cloudwater Brew was recently forced to rebrand its ‘Good Call Soda’ after Heineken said the name infringed on a trade mark it had registered for one of its brands, Fosters, for a TV advertising campaign.
Again, if you want to grow this industry, this is not the way to do it. It would be much better if the industry hadn't murdered its own tradition of congeniality in favor of permission culture.

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Senator Cantwell Releases Another Federal Privacy Law That Won't Go Anywhere And Doesn't Deal With Actual Issues

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A few weeks ago we wrote about a privacy bill in the House that seemed unlikely to go anywhere, and now we have the same thing from the Senate: a new privacy bill from Senator Maria Cantwell, called COPRA for "Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act." For months it had been said that Cantwell was working on a bipartisan effort to create a federal privacy law, so the fact that this bill only has Democratic co-sponsors (Senators Schatz, Klobuchar and Markey) doesn't bode well for its likelihood of success.The basic features of the bill are to give more power and resources to the FTC to enforce "digital privacy" and also allowing state Attorneys General to enforce the law. And... as with the House bill it includes a private right of action. This is something that many privacy organizations do favor, but still seems likely to be a disaster in practice. Letting anyone sue for privacy violations when no one actually agrees what "privacy means" is a recipe for a ton of nuisance lawsuits. If this bill actually had a chance, it could lead to the rise of "privacy trolls." Even in the most well meaning sense of trying to protect privacy, the fact that so many people disagree over what should actually be private and what privacy means, would create quite a legal clusterfuck.One thing this bill does that the House bill would not, is to pre-empt "directly conflicting state laws." That's important for any federal bill, as otherwise companies will have to figure out how to comply with many different (and sometimes conflicting) standards and rules from multiple different states. At least this bill would prevent that. As Consumer Reports notes in its write-up of the bill, it is good to have more alternatives out there, and the bill does have some useful ideas in terms of protecting privacy:

It's a good bill to have out there, Brookman says. It gets a lot of things rightcompanies shouldn't be collecting cross-site profiles about me and sharing that informationand it's pretty aggressive on those things.The proposed law expands the definition of sensitive information to include biometric details such as facial recognition data, as well as geolocation data that is collected as individuals go about their day-to-day lives.
But, that "aggressiveness" is also what limits the bill's chances. This seems more performative than anything else, recognizing that people are (reasonably) worried about their privacy online, but does little to deal with the actual issues regarding privacy.

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