The Courts Enter Craft Beer Battles
While craft breweries are known for their creative and sometimes very punny names, there are an increasing number of trademark disputes in the industry. In the case of In re: Bay State Brewing Co., 117 U.S.P.Q.2d 1958 (TTAB 2016), the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) refused to register the mark “Time Traveler Blonde”, finding that there was a likelihood of confusion between it and the already-registered mark “Time Traveler” for use in connection with Beer, ale, and lager. Complicating the issue was the fact that the applicant seeking registration of Time Traveler Blonde had previously entered into a consent agreement with the registrant of Time Traveler. The consent agreement contained a number of provisions, including one where the applicant agreed not to use Time Traveler Blonde outside of New England and the state of New York. The TTAB found that any registration issued to the applicant would not reflect the geographic limitations contained in the consent agreement and, therefore, the registration would be misleading. Furthermore, the TTAB found that the terms of the consent agreement required only that the applicant and the registrant did not use each other’s trade dress, which did not address the likelihood of confusion between the two marks themselves. Therefore, despite the Federal Circuit’s instruction that consent agreements should be given great weight, the TTAB found that the likelihood of confusion between the two marks outweighed the consent agreement and affirmed the refusal to register the mark.