Lawyers for Anheuser-Busch and Labatt attempt to prevent Ontario's largest craft brewer from using images of limes, the colour green and Canadians in bathing suits
WATERLOO, ON, Aug. 31 /CNW/ - Brick Brewing Co. Limited (TSX: BRB) announced today it has received a Statement of Claim from Anheuser-Busch, Incorporated and Labatt Brewing Company Limited, claiming infringement of Bud Light Lime trademarks and copyrights. Labatt and Anheuser are seeking an injunction as well as damages or an accounting of profits from Brick's sales of Red Baron Lime. Anheuser-Busch, Incorporated and Labatt Brewing Company Limited are part of Anheuser-Busch InBev ("AB InBev"), the world's largest brewer.
Brazil's antitrust regulator recently imposed a record fine of US$176 million on AB InBev's Brazilian subsidiary, AmBev for anti-competitive practices against small competitors. Brick Brewing, which launched its Red Baron Lime beer earlier this month, intends to defend itself aggressively and believes this is a Canadian example of AmBev's anti-competitive tactics.
"Getting hit with this nuisance suit is not unexpected, as Brick believes it is a standard tactic used by large breweries worldwide to eradicate all competition regardless of a brewer's size," said George Croft, President and CEO of Brick Brewing. "But we're committed to take a stand on behalf of all craft brewers in Ontario and Canada. Significant differences exist between these brands - starting with a fair price that is nearly 25 percent less than Bud Light Lime and the fact Red Baron Lime beer is made in Ontario - above all, we believe consumers deserve to benefit from healthy competition."
Among claims made in this suit are that Brick's Red Baron Lime label uses images of limes and the colour green, and that the www.lustforlime.com website promoting Red Baron Lime, uses images of young people wearing swimsuits.
"Our decision to feature a lime on our label was motivated by the fact that Red Baron Lime is a lime-flavoured beer, and green is of course, the colour of limes," noted Croft. "We believe the fact that this premium beer is priced under $10 for a 6-pack and is readily available is the real crux of the matter, when they're asking consumers to pay import prices and have had trouble supplying enough product to retailers."
According to the suit filed in Canada's Federal Court, Anheuser-Busch is claiming infringement of Anheuser's Bud Light Lime beer trademarks, depreciation of the goodwill associated with the Bud Light Lime marks and that beer consumers are confused between Brick's Red Baron Lime beer and Anheuser's Bud Light Lime beer.
Croft says Brick was cautious and diligent in its brand development process, and is skeptical about alleged consumer confusion. Red Baron Lime, which is only available at The Beer Store, typically has to be asked for by customers at the front counter who must order it by name and not label.
The Red Baron brand has been part of the Brick Brewing family for more than 20 years, and it was a natural line extension to offer a lime version. Other regional brewers in Canada have also offered lime beer this summer. These brewers also feature limes and use the colour green throughout the packaging and marketing.
Brick Brewing's Red Baron underwent a label revamp and marketing push early in the year, and increased its sales ten-fold. Brick has been relying on funds it received from the provincial government's Ontario Craft Brewers Opportunity Fund (OCBOF) to market its brands to Ontario consumers. The OCBOF is a four-year, $8 million initiative available to licensed craft beer producers with annual worldwide production of beer of 300,000 hectoliters or less.
"It's encouraging that the provincial government recognizes the importance of a strong, vibrant, locally owned and operated Ontario Craft brewing industry," said Croft." Unfortunately, unless there are some safeguards to protect Ontario's craft brewers from spurious lawsuits, that money won't be creating jobs and keeping our Ontario-based beer brewing tradition healthy. We're in a war of attrition and in the end it's consumers that get hurt when local choice is eradicated."
About Brick Brewing
Brick Brewing Co. Limited is Ontario's largest Canadian-owned and Canadian-based publicly held brewery. The Company is a regional brewer of award winning premium quality and value beers. The Company, founded in 1984, was the first craft brewery to start up in Ontario, and is credited with pioneering the present day craft-brewing renaissance in Canada. Brick has complemented its Waterloo brand premium craft beers with other popular brands such as Laker, Red Baron, Red Cap and Formosa Springs Draft. Brick trades on the TSX under the symbol BRB. Visit us at www.brickbeer.com
All statements in this press release that do not directly and exclusively relate to historical facts constitute forward-looking statements as of the date of this press release. Forward-looking statements generally can be identified by the use of forward-looking terminology such as "may", "will", "expect", "intend", "anticipate", "seek", "plan", "believe" or "continue" or the negatives of these terms or variations of them or similar terminology. Although the Corporation believes that the expectations and assumptions reflected in these forward-looking statements are reasonable, undue reliance should not be placed on these forward-looking statements, which are not guarantees and are subject to certain risks, uncertainties and assumptions, which may cause actual performance and financial results to differ materially from such forward-looking statements. The forward-looking statements included in this press release are made only at the date of this press release and, except as required by applicable securities laws, the Corporation does not undertake to publicly update such forward-looking statements to reflect new information, future events or otherwise.