May 08 2020

Bud Light and parent company AB InBev (Anheuser-Busch) fired a shot over the bow of beer rival Molson Coors in a 2019 Super Bowl ad. In the ad, the Bud Light Knight delivers a barrel of corn syrup to castles representing Molson Coors’ Miller Lite and Coors Light beers. That led to a Molson Coors filing suit against AB InBev claiming the ad was misleading.

Womble Bond Dickinson attorney John Morrow discussed the case with World Trademark Review. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently overturned a US District Court, Western District of Wisconsin, ruling in favor of AB InBev and said the Molson Coors ad was not “false or misleading”.

The basis of Molson Coors’ claim was that while corn syrup is used in the fermentation process, it is not an ingredient in the final product. But AB InBev attorneys noted that Molson Coors’ website itself lists corn syrup as an ingredient in Miller Lite and Coors Light. Morrow said that ingredients list was powerful evidence in the eyes of the court. 

“It stands to reason, as the Court of Appeals found, that AB InBev’s ads reiterating (and mocking) that fact were not false or misleading,” Morrow told World Trademark Review.

In the ruling, the Seventh Circuit said that if Molson Coors doesn’t like the Bud Light jabs, it is free to fire back in its own ads. Morrow said that Molson Coors may do themselves more harm than good if they continue to seek legal remedies to this dispute.

“By choosing this battle, Molson Coors only highlighted and perpetuated the issue that AB InBev had mocked in its advertisement,” he said.

Click here to read “Bud Light’s Win on ‘Corn Syrup’ Ad Offers Valuable Lessons on False Advertisement Claims” in World Trademark Review (subscription required).

John Morrow currently chairs Womble Bond Dickinson’s US Intellectual Property Litigation Group. For more than two decades, his practice has focused on complex disputes involving patent infringement, trademark and trade dress infringement, unfair competition, copyright infringement, trade secret misappropriation, false advertising, antitrust, and cybersecurity (data breaches).