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We just announced our opening of a small microbrewery in a rural town. Within 36 hours, we were contacted by another microbrewery in a large city, same state, stating that our name was infringing on their trademarked brand. We are Trails End Brewing Company, their trademarked name is Trail Point Brewing Company. My question is are we infringing upon their trademark? Thanks
Asked on October 2, 2018 under Business Law, Michigan
SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney
Answered 3 years ago | Contributor
You may well be. We are sorry that we cannot be more definitive than that, but there is an element of subjectivity to the determination of when trademark is infringed. Essentially, trademark infringement depends on a judgment call: is the name and are the businesses similar enough that the customers of business A may confuse business A (which has the trademark) with business B (which does not). Elements to consider are the physical proximity and whether you are selling to the same customer base--which in turn depends on where you distribute vs. them (you are in the same state, but if you are on different ends of the state, the overlap in distiribution or customers may be minimal), whether you offer the same or highly similar products (which you do), whether the names are wholly descriptive or generic (which they are not; there is no inherent connectino between the End or Point of a Trail and brewing) since descriptive names are inherently less protectible, and how similar the names sound (which is quite a bit, though they are not identical). There is a reasonable probability your are infringing, but we cannot say 100%. We can say that the likelihood of infringement is high enough that you *should* consult in depth with an intellectual property attorney.
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