Candace Moon planned on continuing to bartend at Hamilton’s Tavern in San Diego, California, even after she graduated law school. She was disillusioned with the adversarial nature of law. She loved the brewers that came in and out of the bar. It didn’t make sense for her to leave.
Then Moon met a lawyer who worked with vintners and struck up a conversation. The inspiration stuck. She knew brewers needed plenty of legal assistance—between business law, employment law, intellectual property law, etc.—so she figured: Why not become a “craft beer attorney”?
Moon started her Craft Beer Attorney practice seven years ago (she continued to bartend for the first four years of her business) and has since expanded her firm from just herself to multiple attorneys. She said it now actively serves over 200 breweries.
But Moon currently has a problem. She’s filed a trademark for the term “Craft Beer Attorney,” and 11 other law firms are opposing the designation.
“Nobody is trying to stop anyone from being an attorney or from practicing in the craft beer industry,” says Warren Dranit, a lawyer at one of the opposing firms, Spaulding McCullough & Tansil LLP. “But for this particular term, craft beer attorney, that is a generic designation.”
“I’m an intellectual property attorney,” he explains. “I couldn’t stop people from using that for identifying themselves as an intellectual property attorney.”
For Moon, trademarking the term would help her protect an industry she cares deeply about.
“It’s really hard for a small brewery to afford a big law firm and to some extent I think they’re intimidated by big law firms … and I’m not sure if big law firms understand how the industry works,” she says. “I’m very protective of the industry and my clients.”
A couple of months ago, Moon banded together with several other attorneys to form the non-profit Craft Beer Attorney Coalition. Moon says she filed for the trademark with the idea of starting something along the lines of the current coalition in her head, and that, if granted the trademark, she’ll transfer it to the non-profit, which will set standards for the designation.
“It comes down to the fact that I’ve taken a lot of clients who started out with a big firm, and then the big firm screwed things up for them,” she says. “It’s some of the … you know … mama tiger in me that wants to protect.”
Ray Astamendi, owner of Fall Brewing Co., is one of Moon’s clients.
“From every aspect of running a business, we’ve been able to go to Candace and say we’re struggling with this issue,” says Astamendi. “She’s been a tremendous asset and a huge help. I can sleep at night. Candace is a saint in my book.”
Astamendi says he appreciates Moon’s familiarity with the industry and her prices. He likes that she doesn’t “nickel and dime” him.
“I honestly believe that [the trademark] would help,” says Astamendi. “Given that it is such a young industry, and it’s rapidly expanding…I think allowing them a trademark to vet the lawyers that get that designation is helpful to our industry.”
Dranit, whose firm has worked with the likes of Russian River Brewing Co., Faction Brewing Co. and Half Moon Bay Brewing, says the problem isn’t that Moon wants to develop a sort of certification, but that she’s trying to trademark such a generic term.
“She’s entitled to do that, but she’s not entitled to do that using a generic term for craft beer attorney,” Dranit says.
As an example, Dranit notes the difference between the specific designation of Cicerone (a term previously used to describe Italian guides in the 18th century) and attempting to trademark something along the lines of “beer tasting expert.”
“She is entitled to come up with whatever standards, and to try and define that as much as she can or she wants,” he says. “Think about all the words in the dictionary, and then think of all the terms you could coin yourself … those are all the terms she has available to her for her designation.”
Bo McMillan is an editorial assistant at All About Beer Magazine.