Lucasfilm Disputes Empire Brewing's 'Strikes Bock' Trademark Application

from the the-power-of-the-dark-side dept

Here we go again. For some reason, alcohol products, particularly beer, seem to make everyone go trademark crazy. This latest case concerns Empire Brewing Company out of New York (you know, the "Empire State") and their latest brew released in bottle form, called "Strikes Bock." Do you already know where this is going? I'm pretty sure you already know where this is going.
Lucasfilm has filed a trademark dispute with a small brewery in Syracuse, New York. Empire Brewing Co., named after New York’s Empire State Building, recently applied for a trademark for its signature lager, Strikes Bock, according to Syracuse.com. The Star Wars producer contends Empire’s beer infringes on Lucasfilm trademarks and could be used to deceive consumers or cause brand confusion.
Of course, Lucasfilm, now featuring a litigation supercharger in the form of Disney ownership, has filed a trademark dispute. As best as the internet can tell me, there is no such thing as a Star Wars beer produced by Lucasfilm. As the trademark opposition itself notes, the trademark that Lucasfilm has is for "toys, games, apparel, video/computer games, personal-care products, paints, trading cards, confections, prerecorded films and music, books, magazines, music and entertainment services." I don't see beer. Or any other kinds of beverages. The best Lucasfilm can come up with in its opposition filings is that Lucasfilm licensed the "Skywalker" name to Skywalker Vineyards, which makes Skywalker wines. But it still seems like a stretch to argue there's a likelihood of confusion here, rather than just a basic homage to the film.
“The thing is the beer is called ‘Strikes Bock,’ not ‘Empire Strikes Bock,’” Empire Brewing Co. owner David Katleski said. “It’s ‘Strikes Bock,’ by Empire.”
That may sound like a minor difference, but add to it the fact that Empire Brewing Company's name is not in itself under dispute and their logos and packaging to date are in no way similar to any Star Wars films, and what we end up with is an obvious nod to the film -- one which won't cause any brand confusion -- that's being disputed by Lucasfilm just to be a pain in the ass. It's worth noting, by the way, that Strikes Bock certainly isn't the only such craft beer nod. Here's a list of some more, including my favorite.
Lucasfilm might have a marginally stronger argument as a dilution claim, but especially given that it's not actually "Empire Strikes Bock," or even "Empire's Strike Bock," but "Strike Bock by Empire Brewing Company," even the dilution claim feels a bit iffy.

Katleski has hired a lawyer, but he also acknowledges his small brewery doesn't have the money to contend with Lucasfilm in the long run if they decide to throw their money behind this. Of course, there is a reasonable flip side to this, which is that if they're just such a small brewery, why did the company even bother filing for a trademark in the first place? The company doesn't need the trademark to sell the beer. It could easily rely on common law trademark instead of getting a registered one, saving it some money (and calling in the attention of Lucasfilm/Disney lawyers). In the end, though, we just have another trademark dispute that doesn't seem to serve any real benefit to anyone.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2014 @ 11:54am

    Dilution claims

    They should've made it a doppelbock. Then there'd be no dilution claim!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2014 @ 12:04pm

    There was a case many years ago where McDonalds sued a start-up motel chain called "McSleep". While the defendants claimed they were trading on the legendary frugality of the Scots- McD's claimed that it one day may wish to get into the hospitality business and such similarity would cause confusion or otherwise diminish its brand and reputation. Court ruled for Hamburglar et al.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2014 @ 12:11pm

    we just have another trademark dispute that doesn't seem to serve any real benefit to anyone.

    It benefits the lawyers, which is the main reason for IP.
    /s

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2014 @ 1:40pm

      Re:

      Actually, I'd say your statement isn't sarcastic, at all.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Cerberus™, 3 Nov 2014 @ 4:42am

      Response to: Anonymous Coward on Oct 31st, 2014 @ 12:11pm

      That, too; but additionally, the beer now gets loads of media attention on the internet. They are using Lucas Film's lawyers as a free publicity machine. The Streisand Effect can be exploited by the other side.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Special addition version, 31 Oct 2014 @ 12:43pm

    Disney and anything

    Having just watched Hardware wars the special addition, I want my money back for the SW special addition VHS set I bought.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    tqk (profile), 31 Oct 2014 @ 1:08pm

    Mickey Mouse Beer?

    I'd just like to point out the popular meaning of the phrase, "mickey mouse", as in, "Well, that sounds pretty mickey mouse"; as in pathetic. "What is it, negative 2% alcohol?" Maybe they could pawn it off on kindergartners, Mormons, or Muslims, but nobody else would want it.

    On another note, Skywalker Vineyards? Who'd want to name a vineyard that? More likely, D's lawyers stumbled across a vineyard that'd been called that for generations, and shook them down for use of the name.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2014 @ 1:22pm

    Another Disney shake down of a small business, nothing new there. I am sure Walt would be proud, and who knows, one day he might be, as I hear his head is on ice somewhere.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Adam, 31 Oct 2014 @ 1:32pm

    not really sure

    I don't think the owner of Empire is correct in his statement about the name. If I order a Sam Adams Octoberfest at a bar, I say Sam Adams Octoberfest, not Octoberfest by Sam Adams.
    That said, my ordering an Empire Strikes Bock (and I will as soon as I can find one) isn't going to make any difference to Disney's bottom line.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Eldakka (profile), 2 Nov 2014 @ 5:41pm

      Re: not really sure

      Would you really order an "Empire Strikes Bock"? That full phrase?

      Most people I think would order an "Empire", or a "Bock", or some other abbreviation.

      I don't think I've ever heard anyone order a beer that has a 3 or 4 word name use all the words. Even 1-word beers are often abbreviated even further.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Nov 2014 @ 5:56am

        Re: Re: not really sure

        Most people I think would order ... a "Bock"

        Bock is a style of beer. There are even sub-styles of bock.

        beeradvocate.com: search: bock
        Found: 2918
        Not logged-in. Results limited to first 25 (or less) results.

        . . . .

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2014 @ 1:56pm

    Sounds like Lucasfilm is worrying over another phantom menace that amounts to little. A beer with some clever wordplay in the label is not a clone; wars in the courtroom over stuff like this is ridiculous.

    Then again, I am an optimist. There's always room in my heart for a new hope that Lucasfilm will be more sensible in the "defending" of their tradmarks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2014 @ 2:52pm

    Wow... that's what George is into these days.

    Good thing he left the whole Star Wars franchise for good!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2014 @ 2:54pm

    Dark Helmet beer???

    Does Mel Brooks know about this? Did he give permission? (read the label.)


    And where can I get some?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2014 @ 3:37pm

    May the force with with them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ChrisB (profile), 2 Nov 2014 @ 6:35am

    Clear case of trademark infringement

    This is actually a clear case of trademark infringement. The fact that the "Empire" in their name is not Star Wars related, makes it clear what they are doing.

    But what are you really saying? There shouldn't be any trademark protection? Or just no trademark protection for large companies?

    I used to read Techdirt a lot. For years. These ridiculous clickbait articles may draw some controversy and views, but they are the reason I don't read Techdirt anymore.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Nov 2014 @ 4:31pm

      Re: Clear case of trademark infringement

      Says the person who just read the article and commented.

      Didn't bother reading the article and just commented or are you just full of it?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    tomczerniawski, 2 Nov 2014 @ 1:29pm

    "The Star Wars producer contends Empire’s beer infringes on Lucasfilm trademarks and could be used to deceive consumers or cause brand confusion."

    Man, it's true. I've always had difficulty discerning between movies and bottles of beer. Thank goodness for this lawsuit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dangleberry the Occasionally Confused, 3 Nov 2014 @ 1:58am

    Can I just point out that

    beer is most definitely a personal-care product. :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    andrews, 4 Nov 2014 @ 3:47am

    There is a Surprise Here

    The state of NY is just full of people infringing any Lucas/Disney trademark rights in ``Empire''. I offer no view as to how strong the movie-related claims may be.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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