The alcohol and beverage industry is under extreme pressure due to ever-increasing regulatory scrutiny and a highly competitive business environment. Companies in the alcohol and beverage industry often face legal challenges that impact all aspects of their business – from products and business operations to brand and market share. Whether you’re a producer, manufacturer, distributor, retailer, supplier or investor, you need advisors who understand your industry.
Husch Blackwell’s Alcohol and Beverage group has in-depth knowledge of the beverage industry. Because we are focused on issues specific to the industry, we understand the challenges that our clients face and find practical solutions to help them succeed.
Our experience includes:
Mergers & Acquisitions
Husch Blackwell’s Alcohol and Beverage group has vast experience acquiring and divesting beer, liquor, and non-alcohol beverage businesses and brands. We negotiate wholesaler and distributor transactions, including divestitures of assets or stock, brand swaps, and territory swaps. We buy and sell craft beer companies, soda makers, international bottled water producers and artisan distillers for strategic buyers and investors. Our attorneys are familiar with the industry-specific issues that arise in such transactions, including audits of cooperage, casks, pallets, and other packing and shipping materials, excise tax ramifications, licensure transitions, inventory aging, distribution networks and the effect of brand support on valuation.
Litigation, Enforcement & Dispute Resolution
Our litigation attorneys handle a wide range of legal disputes in the industry arising from governmental agencies, industry members and the public. We routinely conduct risk analyses under the Lanham Act and similar laws directed to intellectual property rights and business practices. Our vast litigation experience extends from handling all manners of civil litigation in federal and state courts, to navigating disputes with governmental agencies, and resolving branding disputes before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB). Our civil litigation activities for beverage clients are extensive and include matters ranging from the protecting trade secrets to handling distribution conflicts. Our group members represent clients in trademark and trade dress infringement, unfair competition, state alcohol control authority and attorneys’ general actions. We also have extensive experience handling state and federal product labeling and advertising enforcement actions, including Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) revocations, permitting actions before the TTB, and investigations by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and have deep experience representing industry members before the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau.
Distribution, Franchise & Tied House Laws
Our group’s corporate attorneys develop and review distribution agreements for alcohol and non-alcohol beverages and help those distributors who wish to sell both alcohol and non-alcohol beverages navigate thorny state law issues related to dual distribution. We advise all three tiers of the alcohol industry on the application of tied house laws. Our litigators regularly defend alcohol beverage suppliers in distributor wrongful termination actions and quasi-franchise litigation, and advise suppliers who wish to terminate their distributors, and distributors facing termination.
Packaging, Raw Materials & Procurement
We routinely prepare agreements for the purchase of large volumes of packaging and other materials used in the beverage industry. Our attorneys draft supply agreements and tolling agreements for virtually all raw materials and constituent goods used to make and package beverages: cans, can sheet, aluminum ingot, glass and PET bottles, corrugated cardboard, thermographic ink, labels, closures, neutral spirits, grains, hops, grapes, and point-of-sale and other promotional materials. We also prepare co-packing, contract brewing, bottling, and similar finished goods supply agreements. Many of our clients differentiate their products through innovation, and we protect that intellectual property by patenting or trademarking their innovations or by preparing exclusive supply agreements with the owners of the subject intellectual property.
Marketing & Advertising
In the United States, alcohol beverages in particular are subject to a broad range of federal, state and local laws regulating labeling, promotion and advertising. We provide comprehensive advice on all legal aspects of implementing marketing and promotional campaigns. We review advertisements and social media platforms for compliance with state and federal statutes and administrative regulations. We also counsel on compliance with the alcohol industry’s various voluntary codes: the Beer Institute Advertising and Marketing Code, the DISCUS Code of Responsible Practices, and the Wine Institute’s Code of Advertising Standards.
Our attorneys represent suppliers and wholesalers in securing sponsorship opportunities in all major North American sports properties, as well as many international sports properties, including the World Cup and Olympic Games. We negotiate and draft exclusive advertising relationships with major recording artists, athletes, and actors. We advise owners of some of the most recognizable brands in the world on product placements in motion pictures, live theatre, and on television. We advise suppliers on the licensing and marketing of branded promotional products. We have a nationally recognized expert on advertiser-ad agency relationships and prepare agreements on behalf of numerous advertisers in fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industries. And we are well-versed in the use of third party licensing agents to developing branded merchandise to be sold at on-premise and off-premise accounts.
Licensing & Regulatory
We advise alcohol and non-alcohol suppliers on all applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations applying to the sale of beverages. We assist with obtaining licenses and COLAs from the TTB for alcohol beverages, and advise clients on deposit laws, recycling compliance, and state and local registration of recycling programs for alcohol and non-alcohol beverages. We also obtain and defend alcohol beverage licenses for all three tiers from the TTB and state and local liquor control agencies and perform label compliance reviews.
Labor & Employment
Husch Blackwell represents beverage suppliers in labor negotiations, labor arbitrations, effects bargaining, and all variety of employment litigation. Attorneys in our Beverage group are familiar with the specialized industry issues that arise, such as federal preemption issues involving labor disputes, work jurisdiction issues at trade shows and convention events, successorship obligations in mergers and acquisitions, and localized work rule issues.
Our stable of industry experts includes: