If there’s a brewery with a beer name that isn’t trademarked, can I use that name (and federally trademark it) for my brewery’s corporate name?
Most likely not. A business can have trademark rights in a beer name even if they have not registered the name as a trademark. The question is not whether they have registered the mark, but rather are they using it to signify the source of a product (or service). With a few important caveats, the answer is almost certainly yes if the other brewery is using that mark as a beer name. Assuming you use that mark verbatim, even if it’s as your business name and not a beer name, the other brewery has grounds to argue that, because of that use, consumers will mistakenly believe that your breweries are affiliated. That argument can then take the form of a cease and desist letter, lawsuit, and/or roadblock to your attempt to register that mark.
What can I do if I want to open my brewery, but someone has parked the URL with no apparent intention of using it? Is there a way to force them to release it?
That depends on a few things. If you haven’t started using your mark at all, you may be stuck trying to buy the domain name from its current owner. The good news is that, since you’re not a big brand with deep pockets yet, there’s a good chance the domain name warehouser will not gouge you and you can scoop up the domain name relatively cheaply. However, the price will depend on a number of other factors.
If you have started using your mark, it’s possible you could force the warehouser to transfer the domain name to you. All domain name owners and registrars have to follow a uniform set of rules. As a trademark owner, you have the right under those rules to make a claim for transfer (or cancellation) of a domain name under certain circumstances, such as where someone is infringing your trademark in a warehoused domain name (e.g., buycheap[insert your mark here].com).
Similarly, I have trademarked my brewery name but am unable to get the social media usernames. Is there a legal precedent to obtain these or do I have to take that up with the specific platform?
Each social media platform (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, etc.) has a trademark policy to prevent infringement on their platform. So, the best and easiest way to secure a username with your mark is usually to follow that procedure, which typically entails a filling out a single-page form with your trademark information and complaint.
There are a few risks to keep in mind, though. If another business has the username you want, there may be a trademark conflict that will spill over outside social media. And going after the social media username may not be the best way to solve that conflict. Another consideration is what you will do if the platform disagrees that your rights entitle you to a specific username. Your dispute is ultimately with the username’s current owner, not the platform, and there are short and long-term costs and legal consequences to take into account before initiating such a dispute.