Beer Law

We are Beer Law.

We work with breweries of all sizes on licensing, distribution, business planning, mergers, employment, construction, real estate, patents, trademarks, and more. Our experience allows us to work with our clients to control costs and determine the best solution for them. While we are a big part of the brewing industry, our clients also include distillers, wholesalers, distributors, restaurants, bars, hotels, stadiums, and other public venues.

What We Do

Licensing and Distribution

We understand the complexities of the regulatory framework governing the opening of a brewery. We work closely with our clients to see that they achieve their business goals while maintaining regulatory compliance.

We handle all aspects of federal regulatory permitting from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Our attorneys regularly file Brewers Notices and applications for wineries and distilleries. We assist clients with Certificate of Label Approval issues and formula approval, as well as with TTB tax excise audits. 

Our representation of breweries extends beyond Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and involves national issues concerning beer distribution rights. As counsel to large and small craft breweries and chain brew pub restaurants, our attorneys regularly research alcohol laws from around the United States and prepare and negotiate distribution agreements and advise brew pubs on any restrictions from beer state tied house laws. Since alcohol law is such a unique area, many states have varying laws relative to beer franchise laws and the combination of a brewery and service restaurant. We can navigate those issues for clients so they can best realize opportunities in other states.

Business Planning

We enjoy working with our clients on their day-to-day business needs to help them achieve their goals. Our clients can expect the following from us:

  • Counseling on all aspects of product distribution, including compliance with franchise and other trade regulations, and the negotiation and drafting of distribution and supply agreements
  • Intellectual Property issues
  • Employment issues
  • General contract matters
  • Environmental concerns
  • Antitrust and trade practices counseling
  • Tax counseling, including business formation, federal and state income tax planning, estate planning, and disputes and appeals with the IRS and other agencies


Our firm also handles U.S. and international transactions ranging from small-scale to complex deals. We have represented our brewery clients in:

  • Asset and Stock Sales
  • Corporate Reorganizations
  • LLC/Limited Partnership Interest Exchanges
  • Financing Agreements
  • Governmental Approvals and Clearances

Trademark and Copyright

With the growth of craft beer and spirits, trademarking issues have significantly increased, and the team at Norris McLaughlin, P.A., specializes in alcohol trademark matters such as clearance of prospective brand names to ensure they are available for use and registration, and prosecution of U.S. trademark applications.  We also litigate oppositions and cancellations against trademark applications and registrations before the U.S. Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.  Our litigators also have extensive experience in trademark infringement suits in U.S. federal courts.  The Norris McLaughlin team manages the international trademark portfolios of our global clients and, working with a trusted network of foreign agents, supervises litigation and trademark office proceedings abroad. Additionally, our firm is skilled in licensing trademarks and copyrights, merchandising, and protecting trade dress and design, such as product packaging, through filings with both the U.S. Trademark Office and U.S. Copyright Office. We also ensure that, in dealing with third parties such as web developers and graphic designers, our clients secure their intellectual property rights. Further, our team is proficient in the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act and state law protections for trade secrets and works closely with our clients to guard their proprietary recipes, formulas, and other trade secrets when dealing with third parties.


Regardless of size, as employers, breweries, distilleries, wineries, distributors, and the like must ensure that they comply with state and federal employment laws, statutes, and regulations. We work closely with our liquor law clients on:

  • The Hiring Process – employment applications and background checks
  • Job Descriptions
  • Employee Documentation
  • Employee Classifications – employees vs. independent contractors, offer letters and agreements, exempt or non-exempt status
  • Immigration
  • Employment Agreements – non-compete, non-solicitations, confidentiality, and intellectual property agreements
  • Employee Compensation – withholdings, proper pay, and clear commission or bonus plan
  • Policies and Handbooks – written policies and procedures including vacation/sick time, dress code, holidays, harassment/discrimination reporting procedures, etc.
  • Training
  • Leave and Accommodations


We have represented many of our brewers and distributors in construction issues – including construction problems and disputes, all phases of construction projects, and dispute resolution.

Real Estate and Finance

Our Real Estate Team has the experience and depth to help our liquor law clients in all types of transactions and development projects – large or small. We have a keen understanding of the ever-changing regulations and restrictions that affect our clients. We regularly assist our liquor law clients with finance, land use & zoning, landlord/tenant issues, leasing, litigation, sales & purchases, and tax appeals.


In addition to their expertise in federal intellectual property litigation, as set forth above, our attorneys have tried cases in county and federal court, including jury trials and hundreds of cases before arbitration panels, district justices, and administrative law judges. Our litigation experience includes:

  • Distribution Termination cases
  • Legal compliance and litigation management
  • Shareholder dispute resolution
  • Insurance Coverage
  • Breach of Contract
  • Product Liability
  • Anti-trust issues
  • Federal Trademark Infringement cases
  • Environmental enforcement actions
  • State liquor license violations
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