Trademarks are the words, logos, and designs used by a distillery business to identify itself in the marketplace. Trademarks are the most important intellectual property opportunity for a distillery business as it identifies the source of the product and allow a company’s reputation for consistent quality and product image to strengthen. Establishing and protecting trademark rights are essential, especially once a company starts growing. There are three types of protection. Word marks protect a company’s name and slogan. Design marks protect a company’s logos. Trade dress protects product and packaging designs.
Applications can be filed with the USPTO on an intent-to-use of actual-use basis. For intent-to use application, the applicant must have a bona-fide intent to actually use the mark in commerce, whereas for actual-use applications, the applicant must provide dates of first use anywhere, and dates of first use in interstate commerce. A federal registration can last forever as long as the owner maintains it by making periodic filings with the USPTO and polices (takes steps to stop others from using it, or confusingly similar marks).
When starting a distillery business, it is important to pick a strong trademark. This often depends on where the proposed mark falls within the “Spectrum of Distinctiveness,” and how many third parties use the mark or similar mark, on related goods or services. The weakest types of marks are generic and the strongest are fanciful. Descriptive, suggestive, and arbitrary marks fall in between.