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Legal Superheroes Save Breweries Six Figures: New blog arms purveyors of craft consumables with knowledge

May 03, 2021 08:01PM ● By Kristie L. Smith Nikitin

Who needs to know food and beverage law? Anyone who produces edibles and drinkables, that’s who. Super heroes in the craft beverage arena Walter Judge, Jr. and Peter Kunin prevent those who concoct and sell commodities from making costly mistakes. Working for the law firm of Downs Rachlin Martin, they have recently started a food and beverage law blog at DRM.com. Now they protect and serve in the ever-growing Vermont brewing community. 

Keeping track of legislation like the Vermont Origin Rule or California’s Proposition 65 is a full-time job. Purveyors of craft consumables are bombarded with regulations at every turn. Before mortgaging the house or selling the kids, vintners, brewers, and distillers may want to read the Downs Rachlin Martin food and beverage blog.


Due Diligence Saves Time and Money

Walter defends businesses being sued by other companies or individuals. Peter focuses on intellectual property, that is, trademarks and naming. With the ever-expanding Vermont brewing industry, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to name your next stout or amber ale without unintentionally co-opting an existing name. While most are well-intentioned, that won’t stop a company from vehemently defending what is lawfully theirs. 


What’s in a Name?

Trying to name a brewing company? Good luck! There are more than 65 breweries in Vermont alone. Not to mention more than 8,000 craft breweries nationwide. That’s a list of names that would give Santa Claus trouble. Research is important and even big companies can bungle it. One of Peter’s clients, a national food company, had a close call shortly before the launch of a new brand name. Someone had failed to do their due diligence and it cost the company six figures to get the trademark in question, because another business already owned it. 


Sharing a Wealth of Knowledge

The blog’s purpose is to publicize unforeseen legal issues to those who need to know. Both Walter and Peter enjoy what they do and they like to share their knowledge. Since the blog’s launch in February, Walter has been the primary author but they hope to involve the rest of the firm in future posts. To generate content, Walter harvests cautionary tales of local and national news and receives a daily feed about newly filed suits, both frivolous and with merit. The two hope that their blog will help Vermont artisans avoid spending a fortune defending themselves in situations that can be avoided.

State and federal labeling rules are also covered. When companies want to sell regionally or nationally, they must know regulations for each state in which they want to market, not just what Vermont dictates. Case in point is California’s Proposition 65. Prop 65 declares that if businesses are going to sell products in the Golden State, they must disclose any “chemicals of concern.” California keeps an ongoing and expanding list of chemicals that may cause harm to its citizens. Adhering to Prop 65 has spawned an industry, and there are now food labs whose sole purpose is to test for compliance.

Justice may be blind, but business is too costly to forge ahead blindfolded. It’s no fun having to do research when all you want to do is create the perfect pale ale, but it is prudent in the long haul. Make room in the marketing, advertising, and branding budget to at least consult with a lawyer, if not retain one. If that budget is already too thin, consider doing the research personally. The Internet, public libraries, and the DRM food and beverage blog are great places to start.


Walter E. Judge, Jr.
Director, Litigation Group
Downs Rachlin Martin PLLC
199 Main Street, PO Box 190
Burlington, VT 
(802) 846-8326
[email protected]
www.drm.com
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