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Brewers - what's in a name?

More than a year after its initial launch, a Welsh brewery, formerly named LOKA POLLY, has been forced to rebrand following a complaint raised by a Swedish multinational conglomerate over the use of the LOKA POLLY name. 

This kind of dispute and rebranding experienced by the now-named Polly's Brew Co is unfortunately not unusual and something we see fairly often with early stage companies, including those in the brewing industry. 

These types of disputes have usually come about because branding complexities are underestimated and, as appears to have happened with Polly's Brew Co, pre-launch checks are often not carried out. 

Founders should carry out as much due diligence as possible at the outset so that, by launch, they have informed confidence in their chosen brand. This due diligence should include running detailed internet searches and instructing comprehensive trade mark clearance searches for your key markets. These searches will help identify conflicting names already in use, or already registered, by third parties. 

Some conflicts are easy to identify but others are more nuanced and expert legal advice should be taken. While spend is always an issue for early stage companies, it is worth investing in your brand to get it right first time. Polly's Brew Co's issue sounds as if it was fairly easily and quickly resolved in the circumstances but disputes can be expensive, time-consuming and an unwanted distraction from the business.  

Finally, if there is an earlier conflicting mark and a dispute arises, you could have to deal with disruption to your distribution chain and a rebrand on a pressured timescale. Polly's Brew Co appears to have had a really successful first year and would likely have built up some goodwill in the LOKA POLLY name. Another important thing to remember is that if a rebrand is forced, the brand value or goodwill accumulated in your original name may also be wasted. 

Every founder we have been involved with has wanted to create their own brand with a strong identity reflecting their ethos and this is particularly the case for brewers. However, others may also share that ethos and so it is really important to carry out the due diligence thoroughly before deciding on your name and logo. 

Finally, and once you are confident in your branding, you should register it to put yourself in the best possible position to prevent others using it or something too similar.

Jo Pritchard is a legal director and Kiera Dale is a solicitor at TLT

This article originally appeared in the June issue of The Brewers Journal

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at June 2019. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms and conditions.

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