Like anyone who has ever been a child1, I always wanted to have a cool nickname. Unfortunately, according to the unwritten rules of coolness, you can never give yourself a nickname. Luckily those interested in starting an alcoholic beverage business of your own, one of the key steps in starting a brewery, distillery, or winery is coming up with a name for your business.
The right name can bring in customers, set yourself off from your competition, and generally bring happiness and success to you and your business. Choosing the wrong name can spell disaster. Your name needs to be original, which sounds simple enough, but with over 4,000 breweries, 800 distilleries, and over 8,000 wineries in the United States at the end of 2015, with more joining every day, originality is harder than it seems.
Originality is essential from both a branding and legal standpoint. The simple fact of the matter is that you must come up with a name that is not already being used. Do a quick internet search of “brewery/distillery/winery forced to change name” and see just a sampling of the many horror stories that have resulted when a company chooses a name already in use by someone else.
Unfortunately, figuring out what company names are being used is actually harder than it seems. Googling your name is not enough, you (or your attorney) should do a detailed trademark clearance search through the USPTO’s database. However, even if you don’t see any companies that match your name exactly, your job is not over. While it may be obvious, you should also check for companies with names that are spelled slightly different than yours, but sound essentially the same, i.e. McCormick v. McCormack.
While it is certainly tedious to do this searching, especially after you have come up with the perfect name for your company, a little hard work at the beginning will save you a great deal of anxiety in the future.