Brewing is different from other industries in some ways, especially when it comes to regulation. But breweries are just like most other businesses in that their owners almost always should set up business entities to protect themselves from potential legal liability. A “business entity” for our purposes is a company with its own independent legal identity, such as a corporation or limited liability company (LLC).
You need something called a Brewer’s Notice from the federal government to start a commercial brewery. You are free to make up to 100 gallons of beer for personal or family use per person (up to 200 gallons per household) without obtaining any kind of permit each year. However, if you want to open a brewery, microbrewery, brewpub, or make beer for any purposes other than personal or family use, you must file an application, known as Brewer’s Notice Application, with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). The TTB is responsible for implementing federal regulations regarding brewery operations. Those regulations can be complex, and you’ll need to ensure you understand them before filing your Brewer’s Notice Application.
Each container of beer (more generally called a “malt beverage”) must be labeled with a government-approved label before it can be sold. The TTB is the government agency responsible for reviewing and approving alcohol beverage labels, including beer. You must generally obtain a Certificate of Label Approval (“COLA”) for each label and each version of your labels. You can file the application for a beer COLA as soon as you receive a Brewer’s Notice permit. You must submit a sample label with that application. In some cases, you must submit your product formula for TTB evaluation before filing a COLA application.
The name of every alcoholic-beverage manufacturer, every product line, and every drink, is a potential trademark. The logos, slogans, and graphics on your labels or packaging are potential trademarks too. If your chosen trademarks don’t comply with the law, or they are too similar to someone else’s, you might not be able to use them. It’s best to find out whether you can use and protect your trademarks as early as possible so that you can make changes before you have accumulated customer goodwill and marketing costs. This is especially true in an increasingly crowded alcoholic-beverage industry, where trademark disputes are very difficult to avoid without careful planning.
It all starts with a consultation. Contact us today to set an appointment with a qualified attorney.
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