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Claiming Abandoned Trademarks


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I just published a new ebook. It's the story of A. H. Hirsch Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey and is available for both the Kindle and Nook formats. You don't need a Kindle or Nook reader to read it. You can read it with a browser or with the Kindle or Nook apps for smart phones, tablets, etc.

But, book plug aside, I learned something in my research that should be of interest to many people here. When the Michter's Distillery in Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania, collapsed (that's where the Hirsch bourbon was made) the company's assets were abandoned, including its intellectual property. As an abandoned trademark, the name Michter's could be claimed and registered just like a new mark. There doesn't appear to have been any race to the courthouse, as Chatham Imports, a Philadelphia company, registered it several years later. They now sell a successful line of whiskeys under the Michter's name. Although they are not currently a distiller, they have begun work on a micro-distillery in downtown Louisville, which they will use as a showplace to create more interest in the brand. It must be a good idea because Heaven Hill just announced plans to do the same thing for its Evan Williams brand, the third best-selling American whiskey in the country.

You don't need a collapse as dramatic as Michter's for a trademark to become claimable. It mainly just has to stop being used. You can do the groundwork yourself using the Trademark office's web site, though you might want to get legal help if you find a mark you want to claim. I'm using the term 'claim' for clarity, but as far as the feds are concerned, it's a mark like any other and if it's available, anyone can register and start using it.

In the case of Michter's, i.e., Chatham, they have claimed not only the name but also the distillery's 259 year history, ironic since the name itself was only coined about 60 years ago.

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Chatham, they have claimed not only the name but also the distillery's 259 year history, ironic since the name itself was only coined about 60 years ago.

Only in America could you get away with that.

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