As Craft Beer continues to grow in popularity, trademark disputes seem to be keeping pace. Although trademark disputes occasionally make national news, they are a daily problem for brewers of all sizes. In just the past month both Dogfish Head and BrewDog, two of the biggest voices in independent, anti-corporate practices, have gotten a little heat for protecting trademarks. In April, Dogfish Head sent a Cease and Desist to a small brewery over the name "Namaste" and BrewDog prevented a pub from naming itself "Draft Punk." Brew Dog's flagship IPA is called Punk IPA.

While we are used to this kind of behavior from celebrities and activists, on the face of it fighting over trademarks plays against the independent craft beer anti-corporate image. But craft beer trademark disputes are not just a problem for huge companies, it increasingly is happening among small regional companies as well.

Trademark disputes are part of industry growth

As craft beer becomes a bigger, more mainstream industry, trademark disputes are going to continue and become common. It just is part of the corporate landscape. Trademark laws are aimed at spurring on creation and then rewarding it. But like any other law, loopholes make it easy for opportunists to take advantage of a complex system.

It works like this:

If someone makes a product, or names a business or in any way uses another company's trademark the company has to defend it or risk losing it. There is no third way. Imagine I use a Dogfish Head logo to sell coasters for charity and Dogfish Head doesn't try and stop me, or at least charge me for use of the logo.

When a for-profit company decides to start making, say, Dogfish Head merch, Dogfish Head might not be able to successfully sue them, because it set a precedent for not defending its trademark when it let me sell the coasters.

Too many cool craft beer names already are trademarked

The amount of effort it takes to defend trademarks has created a niche for lawyers and an opportunity for name squatters.

Just as with internet domain names, people register trademarks regularly just to see if they can resell them later.

The challenge for craft brewers has been to find the thin line between alienating fans and losing market opportunities. It isn't a fun place to be. For Dogfish Head's part, many if not most of the initial contact comes from founder Sam Calagione himself, letting the unfortunate brewer know Dogfish Head holds a trademark and will have to defend it. In one case, BrewDog promised to cover the name change expenses after sending a cease and desist letter to a company.

Going forward, though, this problem isn't going away and the more breweries that open up, and the more distinctive names they create, the greater the likelihood of industries bumping up against one another.