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A clash of beer and intellectual property rights

beer bottles.jpg

A recent legal step taken by Anheuser-Busch proves that someone in its legal department has a great sense of humor.

Normally, when a small business copies a name from a large corporation, it can expect to be slapped with a nasty cease and desist -- "stop, or else!" -- letter from a corporate lawyer. When a small brewery in Minnesota released a new craft beer, the "Dilly Dilly" Mosaic Double IPA, on December 1, it got a response from Anheuser-Busch that had a lot of people laughing.

Dilly dilly

Most people can say they have enjoyed a Bud Light commercial or two over the years. The medieval style "dilly dilly" ads are no exception. If Modist Brewery got the beer name idea from the commercials, it probably expected to get the standard letter.

Instead, a man dressed in medieval garb shouted out "hear ye, hear ye" in the brewery and proceeded to read a tongue-in-cheek rendition of a cease and desist "decree" off real parchment paper. While the brewery was ordered to cease using the name Dilly Dilly, it was given a reprieve until the 200 crowlers it released that day were gone.

No laughing matter

Other beer companies are not quite so nice when it comes to protecting intellectual property rights. Allegations of trademark infringement can lead to costly litigation, potentially putting small companies out of business.

Route 66 Junkyard Brewery in New Mexico has been sued by Lodestar Anstalt, a company in the country of Liechtenstein, for using the phrase Route 66 and the highway shield image in its marketing. The American brewery owner is fighting back in U.S. federal court, claiming that no one should own exclusive rights to the name of the iconic stretch of highway between Chicago and Los Angeles.

Moosehead Breweries in Canada filed a lawsuit against the Hop'N Moose Brewing Company in Vermont claiming that the business names and moose-shaped logos are too similar. While Moosehead has won similar cases against other businesses selling moose-related beer, the owner of Hop'N Moose plans to fight back.

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