Business Startup

Brewery Law 101: Navigating the TTB

If you are considering opening a brewery, you will need to navigate the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (“TTB”). In this latest post in our Brewery Law 101 series, we outline the general process for fulfilling the TTB requirements.

1) Beer Operation Identification:

One of the most important steps when starting out in the brewing industry is to decide the type of operation you want to build:

Brewery/Brewpub Pilot Brewing Plant Brewery/Brewpub

If you are interested in producing beer, malt beverages, or Saké for sale, operating a brewpub, or wish to alternate brewery premises with another brewery, you fall into this category.

Pilot Brewing Plant

You fall into this category if you wish to establish a pilot brewery either on or off brewery premises for research,...

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Intellectual Property

Lagunitas Trademark Infringement Lawsuit

On January 12, 2015, Lagunitas Brewing Company, one of the biggest craft brewers in Northern California, filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against craft beer giant Sierra Nevada in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco. The suit was over the use of Lagunitas trademark “IPA” design on its beer label.

According to the complaint, Lagunitas founder Tony Magee became aware that the label on Sierra Nevada’s new Hop Hunter IPA, scheduled to be released January 15, resembled the label on Lagunitas’s flagship IPA, which the brewery first released 20 years ago. According Magee’s affidavit, he says he reached out to Sierra Nevada CEO Ken Grossman before and after sending a cease-and-desist letter, before filing the lawsuit.  From the complaint:

The unique “IPA” lettering used in...

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Business Startup

Brewery Law 101: When It’s OK to Give Beer Away for Free

Unfortunately for Washington breweries, the regulations governing when you can give beer away for free are far from clear. We’re continuing our Brewery Law 101 series by highlighting the Washington Liquor Control Board’s regulations governing giving beer away for free.

The LCB regulations prohibit the distribution of beer for free with a few exceptions. The exceptions include:

To Licensed Retailers and Distributors

The first carve-out under the regulations allows a Washington brewery to provide free samples of its beer to licensed retailers and distributors for the purposes of negotiating a sale. That is, you’re in the clear if you’re negotiating a sale of your beer!

For Teaching Others About Beer

The regulations also carve out an exception for distributing beer free of charge for instructional purposes....

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Business Startup

Brewery Law 101: Operating Agreements

Once you’ve chosen the right entity for your brewery or distillery, you’ll need to draft some key contracts governing your business entity. Today, we will continue our Brewery Law 101 series by discussing operating agreements. As we discussed in our post on brewery entities, an LLC likely is the right choice of entity for your brewery or distillery. So we will focus on operating agreements, as operating agreements are the primary governing document for an LLC. (While we are specifically discussing operating agreements, many of these issues will carry over to the governing documents you will want for any entity type.)

One of the most appealing attributes of the limited liability company and why it has been so widely adopted is the...

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Intellectual Property

Brewery Law 101: Washington State Beer Labeling Requirements

You’ve perfected your recipe, bottled your beer, and now it’s time to slap labels on the bottles. Before creating your labels, you’ll need to know the Washington State beer labeling requirements . Below are the basic guidelines you should have in mind as you begin brainstorming labels for your brew.

Washington’s Rules Versus the Federal Labeling Requirements

If you comply with the federal labeling requirements under the TTB regulations, you will comply with most of Washington’s labeling requirements. However, Washington’s Liquor Control Board (LCB) has put in place a few extra regulations to be aware of.

You must obtain a federally-approved label, or a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA), before you are allowed to sell your beer in Washington. You must submit a copy of...

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Intellectual Property

Brewery Law 101: Protecting Your Beer Trademarks

Today we continue our Brewery Law 101 series and discuss the importance of protecting your brewery or distillery trademarks.

You’ve probably been told countless times that you need to “register your trademark.” Perhaps you haven’t been told why you should federally register your beer trademarks, brewery trademarks, and distillery’s trademarks. Today’s post highlights the major benefits attached to federally registering your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”).

Common Law Trademark Rights

Trademark rights exist the minute you use a trademark “in commerce”—basically the first time you put your brewery’s name, logo, slogan, etc. in front of the public. These automatic trademark rights are considered common law rights, which means that the trademark rights are developed through use and are not governed...

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Business Startup

Brewery Law 101: Starting a Brewery: Which Entity Should I Choose?

This is our first post in our Brewery Law 101 series. Starting a brewery is fun and exciting, especially when you get to the beer brewing part, but first you should take some time to select the right entity. Selecting the best entity for a brewery or distillery involves a number of considerations, including (1) taxation, (2) owner liability, (3) governance, (4) capital structure, and (5) potential exit strategies, to name a few.

Below is a primer on some of the various entities that are available for Washington breweries. I have highlighted some of the main features of the primary entity options. You can find a more robust analysis of each entity by clicking on the hyper-linked terms.

The Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship...

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Business Startup

Brewery Law 101: A Primer on the Basics of Owning and Operating a Brewery or Distillery in Washington

Over the course of the next few months, Collin Roberts and I will be putting together a brewery law blog series with what we hope will be helpful information for people interested in starting their own brewery or distillery in Washington. Starting a brewery or distillery isn’t all that different than starting any other business, but there are a few important issues to highlight that are important to be aware of as you open your brewery’s doors. Below are the topics we will be exploring over the next few months:

Choosing the right entity and other startup considerations for breweries Why are trademarks so important for breweries and distilleries? How labelling requirements may affect your trademark decisions Brewery Operating Agreements Navigating TTB Requirements and Licensing When...

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