Friday, April 08, 2011

Lookin' Forward to the Weekend with Legal News About Beer

As the ubiquitous song goes:

It's Friday, Friday
Gotta get down on Friday
Everybody's lookin' forward to the weekend, weekend
Friday, Friday
Gettin' down on Friday
Everybody's lookin' forward to the weekend
Although Rebecca Black and her teenage friends may look forward to "kickin' in the front seat" and "sittin' in the back seat" and "partyin'" as Saturday approaches (followed, of course, by Sunday, which "comes after ... wards") with age-appropriate soft drinks, those a bit older might be mulling over what kinds of adult beverages they'll be consuming this weekend.

Thus it is that a couple of legal cases involving beer come to our attention.

Reported by the law firm of Shook, Hardy, & Bacon (bacon is everywhere nowadays, even in ice cream dishes at Denny's) in its on-line newsletter, Food & Beverage Litigation Update, one case comes from Europe and one from the United States.

The European case involves the use of "Bud" as a brand name for beer, and it is a new ruling on an old dispute.
Czech and U.S. brewers seeking to market their beers under the name “Bud,” have apparently been at odds since the early 1900s. In the latest installment of the dispute, the Court of Justice of the European Communities has set aside a decision of the Court of First Instance which allowed the Czech brewer to oppose Anheuser-Busch’s registration of “Bud” in Europe.  Anheuser-Busch Inc. v. Budějovický Budvar, No. C-96-09 (E.C.J., decided March 29, 2011). While the Court of Justice upheld some of the lower court’s rulings, it determined that the lower court erred (i) in the factors it relied on to decide if a “sign,” or trademark, in opposition to a new registration was used in a sufficiently significant manner, and (ii) in holding that the use of the sign in opposition does not necessarily have to occur before the date of the application for new
The language may be dry, but the beverage is still just as wet as you might expect.

The American case a bit more racy and it involves a microbrewery. Microbrewers, by their nature, are always more interesting and adventurous.
Flying Dog Brewery has filed a lawsuit under the First Amendment, alleging that the Michigan Liquor Control Commission and its individual members violated its free speech rights by prohibiting the company from selling Raging Bitch Twentieth Anniversary Belgian-Style India Pale Ale. Flying Dog Brewery, LLP v. Mich. Liquor Control Comm’n, No. n/a (U.S. Dist. Ct., W.D. Mich., filed March 25, 2011). According to the complaint, a British artist, who once worked with journalist Hunter S. Thompson, designed Flying Dog’s beer labels, including the one at issue. The defendants rejected Flying Dog’s application for a license to sell the pale ale in the state, allegedly finding “that the proposed label which includes the brand name ‘Raging Bitch’ contains such language deemed detrimental to the health, safety, or welfare of the general public.”
If I can find a six-pack of Raging Bitch, I may drink one or two this weekend while reading a new book that arrived from this week: Prohibition in Washington, D.C.: How Dry We Weren't, by my friend, Garrett Peck. If anything shows the residuum of Prohibition remaining in U.S. law, it's a ruling by a regulatory body that says the name of a beer -- even if it's "Raging Bitch" can be "detrimental to the health, safety, or welfare" of anybody.

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