By Mike Pomranz
Updated January 16, 2015
© Pinhole Photographic / Stockimo / Alamy

Imagine this scenario: You open a small brewery in your small town. When picking a name, you decide to just name it after the town. What could go wrong? Well, if a large winery has the name of your town trademarked, a lot could go wrong.

That’s the current situation for Cambria Beer Company, owned by Aaron and Jennifer Wharton. The small brewery opened back in 2012 in the little California seaside town of the same name. Things seemed to be going swimmingly until this past New Year’s Eve, when the owners received an email from a lawyer representing wine giant Kendall-Jackson. It turns out that the formidable Jackson Family Farms, which produces Kendall-Jackson wines, has a trademark on the name Cambria. It’s used for their Cambria Estate Winery in Santa Maria, about an hour’s drive south along the coast. The names don’t look identical, but according to Aaron Wharton, under federal trademark law, beer and wine are not considered distinct products, which is why the brewery and the winery are in conflict.

Some posters to the Whartons' Facebook page have wondered if it’s even possible to trademark the name of a town and suggested that there is a real case to be made that it is not. But instead of spending $50,000 to fight it out in court against the much bigger and better-funded Jackson Farms, the Whartons have decided to change their brewery’s name.

They’ve had some fun soliciting suggestions from social media and plan to announce the new name in March. We hope they decided to go with Ken Doll, Jack’s Son Brewery.