The Super Bowl brings alot of entertainment to the screens of millions across the world, especially when it comes to the TV commercials.
However, this year, Miller Lite and Coors Lite aren’t laughing when it comes to protecting its reputation and branding image.
On Thursday, MillerCoors (MC, Plaintiff) is suing competitor and rival, Anheuser-Busch (AB, Defendant) over this years Super Bowl ad campaign for Bud Light, claiming a violation of trademark law that was designed to falsely mislead consumers as well as dilute or tarnish the trademark of MillerCoors.
The 2019 Super Bowl LIII Ads
On February 3, 2019, the Defendant premiered a series of new advertising campaigns (“Ads“) for Bud Light that allegedly mocked Miller Lite and Coors Lite for using corn syrup (and no other ingredient) in the brewing process, unlike AB which claimed to only brew with water, rice, barley, and hops.
But, according to the MillerCoors, the use of corn syrup solely as a brewing adjunct, has never been a secret. The problem, according to the company, is that this Ad made it seem as if the company uses corn syrup (or HFCS) in its final product which ends up in the consumer’s glass, can, or bottle of Miller Lite or Coors Lite.
MillerCoors, LLC v. Anheuser-Busch Companies, LLC
Under the Lanham Act, better known as the Trademark Act (15 U.S.C. §§ 1125(a)/(c)), any person who… uses in commerce any word, term, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof, or any false designation of origin, false or misleading description of fact,…or false or misleading representation of fact…in commercial advertising or promotion, misrepresents the nature, characteristics, qualities, or geographic origin of his or her or another person’s goods, services, or commercial activities…shall be liable in a civil action.
In its complaint, plaintiff, MillerCoors brings two causes of action under the Lanham Act for (1) false advertising and (2) federal trademark dilution, arguing that the series of Ads have not only “deceived” consumers, but caused a strong likelihood of confusion as to whether the company actually uses corn syrup in the final product.
Specifically, the Defendant failed to be wholly transparent with respect to:
- Lack of corn syrup (or HFCS) in the final product (glass, bottle, or can) or Miller Lite or Coors Lite products;
- The differences between “corn syrup” and “HFCS;”
- Miller Lite and Coors Lite never using HFCS;
- Defendant similarly using corn syrup as a fermentation aid in several of its products; and
- Defendant adds HFCS to many of its other products, including, but not limited to Rita’s Berry-A-Rita, Best Damn Peach Tea, Best Damn Root Beer, and Natty Rush Mountain Madness.
Defendant Anheuser-Busch Companies, LLC’s Reply
However, the Defendant doesn’t seem to be letting up on its campaign, calling MillerCoors’ lawsuit “baseless.”
“Those beers are brewed with corn syrup; Bud Light is not. These are facts,” said spokeswoman Gemma Hart. “We stand behind the Bud Light transparency campaign and have no plans to change the advertising.”
Just The Beginning
GritDaily will be actively tracking this case as it continues, providing you with the latest information regarding the arguments presented. The case has been filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.
Case No.: 3:19-CV-00218
MillerCoors is represented by Christopher A. Cole, David Ervin, Holly Melton, Raija Horstman, Mark Thomson, Preetha Chakrabarthi of Crowell & Moring LLP, and by Anita Marie Boor and Donald Karl Schott of Quarles & Brady.
At this time, no counsel information has been provided for Anheuser-Busch.