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A California federal court has refused to dismiss a trademark infringement and right of publicity lawsuit filed by the estate of Thelonious Monk against a craft brewery selling “Brother Thelonious Belgian Style Abbey Ale,” finding the estate sufficiently pleaded all causes of action. Monk v. North Coast Brewing Co., No. 17-5015 (N.D. Cal., entered January 31, 2018). Monk’s son had agreed to allow North Coast Brewing Co. to use the musician’s name, likeness and image on the ale in exchange for the brewery’s donation of a portion of the profits to the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, but he allegedly revoked his consent because the brewer extended the use to apparel and other merchandise. The court found plausible that the estate had a protectable interest in Monk’s name, image and likeness and that it had alleged enough facts to support a possible finding of likelihood of confusion. Although it noted…

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board has affirmed a refusal to register microbrewery 8-Bit Aleworks' application for a trademark despite an agreement between the company and 8bit Brewing Company specifying that 8bit did not object to the use. In re 8-Brewing LLC, No. 86760527 (T.T.A.B., entered October 30, 2017). The court found the consent agreement to be ambiguous and confusing as to which marks were covered by the agreement and vague as to how trade dress and packaging would distinguish the products. Further, the agreement failed to demonstrate how the companies' trade channels were different. Accordingly, the court held that “the shortcomings in the consent agreement are such that consumer confusion remains likely” and affirmed the refusal to register the mark.

A Texas appeals court has held that Mark Anthony Brewing cannot produce and label a house-brand beer for TGI Friday’s restaurants because state law prohibits “overlapping” relationships among alcohol manufacturers, distributors and retailers. Texas Alcoholic Beverage Comm’n v. Mark Anthony Brewing, Inc., No. 16-0039 (Texas Ct. App., entered October 13, 2017). The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) rejected Mark Anthony Brewing's application for approval of the beer labels, which it created as part of a licensing agreement with TGI Friday's, on the grounds that Texas’ “tied-house” statutes prohibit such business relationships. Specifically, TABC found, the agreement violated the part of the administrative code providing that “[n]o application for a label shall be approved which indicates by any statement, design, device, or representation that the malt beverage is a special or private brand brewed or bottled for, or that includes the name, trade name, or trademark of any retailer permittee or…

Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Enterprises, which owns trademarks on the phrase “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere" and several variations, has challenged The Veteran Beverage Company's application to register "It’s 1700 Hours Somewhere.” Margaritaville Enters. v. Veteran Beverage Co., No. 91236809 (T.T.A.B., filed September 22, 2017). The notice alleges that the trademark application is for beer, which is closely related to Margaritaville’s beverage and bar services marks, and that the only difference is that it shows 5:00 p.m. in military time.

The estate of Thelonious Monk has alleged that North Coast Brewing, maker of “Brother Thelonious Belgian Style Abbey Ale,” violated the estate's trademark and publicity rights. Monk v. North Coast Brewing Co. Inc., No. 17-5015 (N.D. Cal., filed Aug. 29, 2017). According to the complaint, the estate verbally granted the brewer the right to use Monk’s name, image and likeness “for the limited purpose of marketing and distributing” the ale in exchange for the brewer’s agreement to donate a portion of the profits to the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at the University of California, Los Angeles, but later revoked the rights in 2016. The estate alleges North Coast has exceeded its rights by using the musician’s name or likeness on other merchandise, including cups, hats, hoodies or posters. Alleging trademark infringement, right of publicity and unjust enrichment, the estate seeks an injunction, profits attributable to the alleged violations, damages…

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has reversed a refusal to register “The Cannibal” as a mark for beer to Iron Hill Brewery, finding little likelihood of confusion between the beer and a restaurant called “The Cannibal Beer & Butcher.” In re Iron Hill Brewery, No. 86682532 (TTAB, entered July 28, 2017). The board found that Cannibal Beer & Butcher failed to show that consumers would be confused by Iron Hill's use of "Cannibal" because the beer product that the brewery provides is different from the restaurant services provided by Cannibal Beer & Butcher. "In light of the large number of restaurants in the United States, the facts that a single mark is sometimes used [to] identify restaurant services and beer, that some restaurants are associated with breweries, and that restaurants may sell beer are not sufficient to establish a relationship between restaurant…

Scottish brewery BrewDog lost its battle to call one of its craft beers “Elvis Juice” when the U.K. Intellectual Property Office ruled that Elvis Presley’s estate still owns a trademark for “Elvis” beer. BrewDog released the grapefruit IPA in 2015, and the U.K. trademark owner, Authentic Brands Group, filed an infringement notice. The administrative body determined that consumers were likely to be confused by the names and that the average consumer would assume that the beer was produced by the Presley estate. See CNBC, July 12, 2017.   Issue 641

The attorney general of New Jersey has announced an “unprecedented” $2-­million fine in a settlement with a craft ­beer and spirit wholesaler accused of trade­ practice violations. Div. of Alcoholic Beverage Control v. Hunterdon Brewing Co. LLC, No. L0002 (N.J. Dep't of Law Public Safety, consent order filed May 31, 2017). New Jersey alleged that Hunterdon Brewing sold tap systems at below­-market prices then overcharged those customers by including “miscellaneous draft charges” on invoices. Further, the company allegedly ignored state credit regulations and entered into discriminatory, “unequal financing” terms of sales with its customers. Hunterdon has agreed to pay the fine in four $500,000 installments over the next 12 months; $250,000 of the final payment will be waived if compliance audits show no further violations. “Fair market prices exist for a reason,” said Attorney General Christopher Porrino in a June 12, 2017, press release. “Consumers suffer when these laws and…

A consumer has filed a projected class action alleging Asahi Beer U.S.A., Inc. misleads customers into believing that Asahi Super Dry beer is made in Japan despite being produced in Canada. Panvini v. Asahi Beer U.S.A., Inc., No. 17-­1896 (N.D. Cal., filed April 5, 2017). The plaintiff claims that although most of the Asahi Dry beer sold worldwide is brewed in and exported from Japan, the product sold in the United States is made in Toronto, Canada. The complaint alleges that Asahi misleads consumers by using Japanese lettering on labels and packaging and by describing it as the “most popular high-­quality beer in Japan.” Claiming violations of California’s consumer-­protection statutes, the plaintiff seeks injunctive and equitable relief, restitution, damages and attorney’s fees.   Issue 631

The Hungarian National Assembly is reportedly considering a proposed ban on Soviet and Nazi symbols that would impose fines of up to $6.97 million and a potential prison sentence on businesses using such marks, likely including Heineken and its red star logo. The ban targets symbols related to Hungary's years of Nazi occupation and decades of communist rule, including the swastika, hammer and sickle, arrow cross and red star. Hungary's Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjen, a co­-sponsor of the bill, reportedly called Heineken's red star logo "obvious political content" and would not deny that the bill was retaliation for a lengthy legal battle between Heineken and a brewery in Transylvania, a region of Romania home to many ethnic Hungarians. See Reuters, March 20, 2017.   Issue 628

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