Had the bust happened today, it’s possible Lagunitas would have consulted a San Diego woman named Candace Moon. Calling herself The Craft Beer Attorney, she occupies a new legal space created by a booming industry.
When Candace started her practice in 2009, she only had enough work to support herself part-time. The United States had 1,653 breweries then, according to the Brewers Association (BA), a trade group representing the craft beer industry. Four years prior, when the ABC busted Lagunitas, that number had been 1,447. By June 2014, it had reached 3,040. Today, Candace’s practice is full-time — and then some.
Trademark issues, Candace told Mashable, now make up half her practice. As craft beer explodes in popularity, all the good monikers are being snatched up, leading to legal disputes over beer branding rights.
In 2013, Lagunitas was hit with a cease-and-desist order from SweetWater Brewing Company: Stop using the 420 marijuana slang on labels, they demanded. (SweetWater had been brewing 420 Extra Pale Ale since 1997.) Earlier this year, Lagunitas sued Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, alleging that the logo of a new IPA from its Northern California rival looks too similar to that of Lagunitas’ signature IPA. Lagunitas dropped that suit after Tony received blowback on Twitter.
But trademark wars and increased demand aren’t just creating pressure for craft beer. Big Beer is nervous, too.