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Wineries, Breweries & Distilleries

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OVERVIEW

The Perkins Coie Wineries, Breweries & Distilleries industry group offers a multidisciplinary approach in assisting beverage alcohol businesses through all stages of their evolution and in all facets of their operations. We have attorneys in multiple practice areas who are experienced in the industry.

Our work for wineries, breweries and distilleries includes corporate (entity formation, distribution arrangements, capital raising, finance, corporate governance and mergers & acquisitions), real estate (sales, purchases, leases, land use and water rights), intellectual property (trademark, copyright, patent and licensing), regulatory compliance (local, state and federal), employment and employee benefits and litigation.

Corporate

We counsel clients in the industry in all aspects of corporate law throughout the full life cycle of their business evolution. We assist startup enterprises with entity formation, distribution arrangements and raising capital. Our Corporate group services the legal needs of ongoing enterprises in the areas of commercial contracts, corporate governance, mergers & acquisitions and complex finance transactions. In addition, we draft and negotiate the full range of contracts and agreements covering such matters as distribution, supply, equipment acquisition and finance and personnel. We regularly guide clients through the funding process, helping them obtain the capital they need to grow and operate their businesses. We are a leader among law firms in working in all stages of venture capital raising, and we have extensive experience representing clients in more conventional lending transactions.

For clients making an investment in the beverage alcohol space, we lead industry-specific legal due diligence and manage all legal aspects of the investment transaction. We regularly evaluate agreements with key personnel, suppliers and customers, identify contingent liabilities and ensure proper transfer of all the business’ rights and obligations. We also have significant experience in brand acquisitions and sales in the industry.

Real Estate

For vineyards and wineries, we advise on potential sites and operations, including real estate purchases and documentation, land use and zoning restrictions and viability and enforceability of water rights. An appropriate property must possess each of the following key components in order to be viable: adequate water rights; appropriate zoning; ability to comply with land use requirements; appropriate orientation and terroir; and appropriate property rights to purchase or lease.

Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is a key value asset for any winery, brewery or distillery. We have one of the leading intellectual property groups in the country and can help businesses in the industry, for example, protect the intellectual property in their labels and other design work. We counsel clients on intellectual property strategies beyond just registration and enforcement. Whether it is the name of the winery or imagery for the beer label, we can provide comprehensive legal and strategic advice.

We focus on all aspects of domestic and international trademark work specifically tailored to the unique issues facing beverage alcohol companies, including counseling, clearing trademarks for use, registration, licensing and enforcement. We have strong experience in the area of domain name disputes and other Internet-related issues, which are increasing as the Internet develops into a powerful business medium for the industry.

We have a wide range of experience representing companies in trademark and copyright matters. This experience includes not only trademark and copyright clearance and registration work, but extends to negotiating complex trademark licenses and coexistence agreements. At Perkins Coie, we understand the importance of trademarks, brand identity and copyright in the competitive world of the beverage alcohol industry.

Regulatory Compliance 

As an alcohol production business, any winery, brewery or distillery faces a Byzantine array of state and federal statutory and regulatory requirements. Issues such as licensing, zoning, label approval, trademark and copyright registration and, in some instances, antitrust compliance trigger regulatory requirements at both state and federal levels and must be addressed before a company begins operation. In addition, there are a multitude of issues that arise during operations, such as shipping regulations and restrictions, email and Web site sales and distribution, advertising and trademark or copyright enforcement. State liquor control laws vary widely. For example, in Washington, the "tied house" statutes and regulations make it particularly difficult for wineries to operate both a winery production and restaurant/retail facility.

Employment

We provide advice on the full spectrum of employment issues, including employment agreements, executive compensation, employee discipline and background investigations and requirements under laws as diverse as FLSA, FMLA, ADA, Title VII, WARN, COBRA and their state and local counterparts. Our lawyers have substantial trial experience and regularly appear in state and federal courts to defend employers against claims of discrimination, wrongful discharge, wage-hour violations and other employment-related claims. We have broad experience in dealing with complex legal and medical issues and can help employers manage claims and additional issues relating to workers' compensation.

Litigation

Our lawyers often help beverage alcohol companies deal effectively and aggressively with the ever-increasing threat of litigation in today's litigious business environment, specifically in the areas of intellectual property enforcement, distributor and dealer relations, price discrimination and various distribution practices. We have the experience to handle federal and state regulatory matters and consumer, unfair competition and putative class actions as well as governmental agency investigations affecting the beverage alcohol industry. We frequently take the lead role in significant class action and other complex litigation matters, making us particularly suited to handle actions affecting the entire industry, including direct shipping cases growing out of the U.S. Supreme Court's Granholm decision.

We are also known for our strategic business and compliance planning and litigation avoidance skills, which are at the core of our approach to guiding wineries through wholesaler, dealer, consumer, employment and management issues encountered every day.

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