Monday morning: time to learn something about beer and IP.
A growler is a glass or ceramic jug with a capacity of 0.5 US gallons (1,900 ml) used to transport draft beer in Australia, the US and Canada. Commonly sold at breweries and brewpubs as a means to sell take-out beer, the growing popularity of home brewing has also led to an emerging market for the sale of collectible growlers.
The New Zealand consumer advocacy group SOBA (Society of Beer Advocates), recently noticed that the New Zealand company Hancock’s Wine and Spirits Merchants has applied to trademark “growler” in New Zealand. By registering the name as a trademark, it seems Hancock’s can prevent anyone to use the term ‘growler’. Or can’t they?
Since a growler is a common slang term for a large refillable containers for beer and the term has been around for many years, both in New Zealand as well as in the US and Canada, the question remains whether this phrase can be monopolized.
Some national trademarks office have the possibility for, so called, third party observations. When you believe a trademark is basically a generic name that should not be monopolized, you can file arguments with the trademarks office. In Europe you can do this at the European Trademarks Office (OHIM). Often a powerful tool to prevent a generic name being trademarked. Although the national trademarks office use internet search engines, they are not always up to speed with all the different slang and generic terms in different businesses.
This will most likely be continued. All kiwi beer enthusiasts unite!