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How Popular Inventions Come to Life: Craft Beer

By: Caitlyn Tuzzolino, Marketing Director,

Craft beer: a beverage that you can find in just about any restaurant, bar, or grocery store in this day and age. A bit different than your typical Bud Light or Corona, craft beer is not brewed by a large brewery corporation, but rather, a smaller, independent brewery.

Back in the 1990s, small, independently brewed beer was called microbrew. The name eventually changed to craft beer for a couple of reasons:

  1. Microbrew is a legal term used to describe specific sizes of breweries.
  2. Companies such as Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada that were previously known as microbreweries quickly outgrew the small size restriction, so they stopped using that term.1

Craft beer became the new term since it was not legally restrictive, yet it still described the product: crafted beer rather than manufactured beer. “Basically, craft is anything other than Big Beer – meaning Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, etc,” said Tom Acitelli, author of The Audacity of Hops: The History of America’s Craft Beer Revolution.2

When was craft beer invented?

Craft beer was founded in 1965 by Anchor Brewing Company. Anchor was owned by Fritz Maytag, who began creating unique beers as president and master brewer.3 Since then, more than fifty years later, the craft beer industry has exploded. The number of craft beer trademark applications has actually doubled during the past ten years (2007 – 2017).4

The industry has become much more competitive, and companies are being more protective over their brands and products – specifically their intellectual property. 

How can you protect your craft beer?

Since craft beer came onto the scene in 1965, there are now 1,916 brewpubs, 3,132 microbreweries, and 186 regional breweries as of 2016 (5,234 craft breweries in total).5 That’s a lot of craft breweries competing with each other! So, if you invent a new craft beer, how do you make yours stand out and protect it?

Many brewers use trademark law and trademark clearance while choosing their brand name. However, design patents should be considered because they can protect innovative packaging, glassware, labeling, and more. To obtain a patent, the design must be new, not an obvious variant of an already existing design, not solely dictated by function, and clearly depicted.6

One example of a craft beer trademark coming in handy was when Renegade Brewing had to change the name of their flagship beer, Ryeteous Rye IPA, to Redacted Rye IPA because the name was too similar to Sixpoint Brewery’s Righteous Ale. Sixpoint had been brewing the beer since 2005 and luckily had it trademarked.7

If you recently invented a new craft beer, or if you’re interested in being part of the 5,234 craft breweries and counting, be smart about it. Be sure to protect your intellectual property so that others cannot copy your recipe, packaging, product name, and more.

Cheers to new inventions and good beer!

1 The Spruce,

2 Tom Acitelli, The Audacity of Hops: The History of America’s Craft Beer Revolution,

3 Brewers Association,

4 Tech Dirt,

5 Brewers Association,

6 Craft Brewing Business,

7 Beer Advocate,

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