02 Sep 2009 @ 8:14 AM 
 

Anheuser-Busch InBev v. Brick: It’s not easy being green.

 

This might be my favorite piece of beer news for the week. According to a rather informative article at Bloomberg, Anheuser-Busch InBev is suing Ontario’s Brick Brewing Company for trademark infringement for the use of limes and the color green on the labels for its new “Red Baron Lime” light lager.

Now, first, let me say that Brick, having been sued for something similar before by Labatt Brewing Co., could have probably seen this coming. On the other hand: You are making a lime light lager that is, presumably, meant to compete directly with Bud Light Lime. How many different ways could you possibly represent it than by using limes and the color green?

Oh sure. “Red Baron” gives you all kinds of cool marketing potential, but they haven’t gone any way other than traditional Canadian labeling on their other beers (Maple leaves? In Canada? Crazy. And Labatt sued? Shocking.), so why start now?

Now, although part of me is kind of indignant about A-B InBev trying to trademark the color green, limes, and (I kid you not) “pictures of young, attractive people wearing bathing suits”, I’ve got to admit that they do really shoot for a pretty similar feel:

Lime = Life?  That's the best you could come up with?

I’m not a trademark lawyer, but I think that A-B has, at the very least, a point. But the way they’re going about it is the part that’s killing it for me. Here’s my favorite quote from the article.

“Bud Light Lime is a high-quality beer, brewed in small batches in England,” Anheuser said in the statement of claim. “Brick’s activities are undermining this reputation.”

If I read this correctly, by Brick using images of green limes and (attractive) bathing-suit-clad youngsters in its marketing materials, they are undermining the reputation that Bud Light Lime has for being 1) high-quality and 2) brewed in small batches in England. I can’t imagine what about this disputes the country that it was brewed in, the size of the batch, or even the quality, unless their intimating that Red Baron Lime sucks more than Bud Light Lime.

Sure, the lawsuit is probably a lot more along the lines of, “They’re trying to gain sales by mimicking our success.” but that’s not what this statement says. And after all, why would they be making a lime light lager if they weren’t trying to mimic the success of Bud Light Lime? Isn’t that what market competition is all about? Maybe if this was called “Bub Light Lime” or something I might be a little more sympathetic to the lawsuit.

I am curious as to how this suit is going to turn out. I really hope that Brick can manage to stand its ground. However, given how similar those two sites look and the fact that Brick has been in court for a similar claim previously, I’m sure that A-B InBev will have a reasonable case. Maybe Brick will have to use red limes or something. Or non-attractive youths in bathing suits. Maybe they will have to include a statement on their label saying that they are not brewed in England. Or: “The lowest quality lime light lager money can buy!” You could list it right next to “ICE COLD!”

Tags Tags: , , , ,
Categories: marketing, new beer, op-ed
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 02 Sep 2009 @ 08 14 AM

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Responses to this post » (One Total)

 
  1. nate says:

    While the similarities are striking, after some consideration, I think the only way to adequately market swill like a light lime beer is by using pictures of sexy people in swimming suits.

    I am interested to see how this turns out as well.

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