This Texas trademark dispute, settled in 2015, took more than a conversation over a beer to resolve
Securing the rights to a trademark is a necessary and vital component to running a successful business. This runs across industries, including in craft beer.
A recent Texas case involving the rights to use the roof of the Alamo on beer bottle labels illustrates how important it is to get the rights to a trademark. Specifically, how important it is to conduct a thorough search prior to branding your goods or services. And, like many things, trademark law may go down a little easier with a beer.
Litigation over Alamo image catches Texas' attention
The legal dispute began when the Alamo Beer Company issued Texian Brewing Co. a cease and desist letter regarding the use of an outline of the roof of the Alamo on their beer bottle labels. The Alamo Brewing Company, which had been using the outline of the Alamo on its label since the 90s, claimed that Texian's use was an infringement of their brand and the goodwill they had generated with their products. The Alamo Beer Company subsequently filed a lawsuit.
The problem was that the state of Texas has already secured the rights to the use of images of the Alamo, including its roof. This allows the state to avoid over-commercialization of its historic landmark site, and lets the state to reap the profits of T-shirts sales and other commemorative memorabilia in gift shops from tourists visiting the area. In fact, the state uses trademarks of the Alamo to sell everything from pickled okra to barbeque sauce.
However, Texas does not always enforce its trademark protections regarding the Alamo name, which is why there is the Alamo Café, the Alamo Bowl, and numerous other for-profit companies which use the name without any legal action taken against them. It is possible the state interceded only because of the litigation in federal court.
The Alamo Beer Company negotiates a license with Texas
In 2015, Texas moved to intercede in the case, claiming that as the trademark owner, neither company had rights to use the outline of the Alamo roof on its beer labels. The U.S. District Judge agreed.
The good news for the Alamo Beer Company is that, shortly after the decision, it agreed to pay Texas for a license to use the outline of the Alamo roof, thereby ensuring it could continue to use the label on its brands (as it had done for years). Texian Brewing Co. has yet to secure such a license, opting instead to rebrand some of its labels.
Have a trademark question?
In a competitive market, it is important to distinguish your goods and services from the rest of the market. But branding only works when you either own the trademark to the brand or have a license to use the trademarked image. Performing a comprehensive trademark search with the United States Trademarks and Patent Office, state registrations and unregistered registrations can prevent future legal disputes and ensure your branding remains your own.
If you have questions regarding securing a trademark, searching for existing trademarks or avoiding future legal troubles regarding your brand, contact the experienced lawyers at The Eldredge Law Firm. Located in Dallas, Texas, our attorneys keep up-to-date on the latest developments in trademark law and can help your business maintain its brand in a crowded marketplace.