May 29, 2019

Clever joke or pun-intentional lawsuit? Let’s talk craft beer names and trademark infringement

By Taylor C. Foss
Craft Brewing Business

Craft brewers are a clever bunch. Just a cursory glance down the beer aisle at a nearby market proves the point. Product with names like Irish I Was A Little Bit Taller (Noble Ale Works), Smooth Hoperator (Stoudts Brewing Co.) and Baby Got Bock (Horny Goat Brewery) are just the tip of the witty iceberg.

Yet, while puns and cultural references may all be in the spirit of fun, they can also spell trouble if not chosen carefully. Case in point, Guns ‘N’ Rosé — a light and fruity ale by CANarchy Craft Brewery (formerly Oskar Blues Brewery) with a tongue-in-cheek reference to ’80s rock band Guns N’ Roses. It is clever and most consumers would understand this moniker to be merely wordplay, and not an endorsement, license or other affiliation with Axl Rose, Slash and company. But the band wasn’t amused, and its attorneys took action against CANarchy in the form of a federal complaint, filed this May, alleging trademark infringement and dilution.