Two Breweries Fight Over The Right To Use A Geographic Name Due To Trademark
If there is one thing that really needs to stop at the USPTO, it is the organization's continued approval for trademarks on terms that are basic geographic indicators. While this isn't just an American thing, far too often people are able to get trademark approvals for marks like area codes or the name of their home counties and towns. Given that the purpose of trademark law is to allow unique identifiers for the source of a good or service, marks like these are obvious perversions of the law.And yet it keeps happening. One recent example of this comes from Kentucky, where two Louisville breweries are in a fight over the use of the name of a neighborhood in that city, Butchertown.
Copper & Kings American Brandy Co. and Butchertown Brewing Inc. are engaged in an intellectual property dispute over the use of “Butchertown” in the forthcoming brewery’s name. Andy Cobb, owner of Butchertown Brewing, posted a GoFundMe campaign July 27, to raise $5,000 to go toward legal fees associated with establishing his right to use “Butchertown” in the name of his brewery.Copper & Kings sent a cease-and-desist letter to the brewery April 29 for the use of “Butchertown” in the business’ name, as records from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), show Joe and Lesley Heron, founders of Copper & Kings, have held the trademark for “Butchertown” on beer, ale, lager, stout, porter and shandy products since 2013.Butchertown, again, is a neighborhood in Louisville. Close to downtown, it's well known in the area. The very idea that someone could keep a brewery in Butchertown from naming itself Butchertown Brewing Inc. is downright silly. Trademark law was never meant to prevent a company from stating where it was from.Notably, while Copper & Kings is indeed headquartered in Butchertown as well, it's a massive brand that has expanded to more than half of the states in America.
As of July 2017, Copper & Kings' 31 markets include: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Washington D.C., West Virginia, Wisconsin.Which, hey, good for them! Still, one wonders just for whom the term Butchertown in its brands serves as a better source identifier, Copper & Kings, or the would be Butchertown Brewing Inc.?Either way, this is all very silly. The USPTO should not be granting trademarks on geographic terms. And if the name of a damn neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky isn't a geographic term, I don't know what would be.