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Distillations: Good Water, Bad Blood

December 28, 2017

Blog

Distillations: Good Water, Bad Blood

December 28, 2017

Back to Fish's Trademark and Copyright Blog

 

A recent trademark infringement case filed in federal court in Vermont illustrates the importance of thorough trademark searching and risk assessment, even for businesses with relatively local operations.

Good Water Brewery is a craft brewer located in Williston, Vermont.  It operates a single brew pub in Williston, and most of its bottled products are sold in Vermont, but it claims that its products have been sold in markets as far west as Colorado and as far south as Washington, D.C.  Good Water holds federal trademark registrations for its name and logo, issued earlier this year and based on use of the marks since 2014.

Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery is a beer producer based in Goochland, Virginia.  Among other brews, they offer a “9 Mile Goodwater IPA,” and in November of this year, they opened a Lickinghole Goodwater Brew Pub in Richmond.  This caught the attention of a Good Water fan living in Virginia, who dropped a dime to the brewery in Vermont.  After a cease and desist letter went unanswered, Good Water sued in federal court.

This background material all comes from Good Water’s complaint. Of course, we do not know the other side of the story, including what steps Lickinghole may (or may not) have taken to search and clear their use of “Goodwater” prior to using it.  Nevertheless, the case provides a stark lesson about the need for thorough trademark searching and clearance, even for small businesses.  Consider the following:

  • Although both parties are small craft brewers with physical operations in different states hundreds of miles apart, both of them apparently sell at least some product in distant markets (indeed, Good Water alleges that Lickinghole beers are sold in Vermont).
  • The owner of a federal trademark registration has the presumptive right to stop the use of identical or confusingly similar marks nationwide. So, a federal trademark registration cannot be discounted simply because the owner is remote.
  • The internet and social media mean that almost nothing is local anymore. Good Water alleges that they learned of the Richmond brew pub opening by e-mail from a customer living in Virginia.  Craft brewers inspire ardent fans who can be powerful brand ambassadors as well as vigilant brand policers.

The case is Good Water Brewery LLC v. Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery LLC, Case No. 2:17 CV-245, U.S. Dist. Ct., D.Vt. (filed December 5, 2017).

Related Tags

trademark
trademark infringement
craft brews
cease and desist

Blog Authors

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Robert M. O'Connell, Jr. | Of Counsel

Bob O’Connell devotes his practice to providing comprehensive trademark and copyright strategic advice, prosecution and enforcement for clients across many industries. He helps clients prevent and solve problems involving all aspects of domestic and international trademark law, as...

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