10 April 2019Trademarks

Patagonia accuses Anheuser-Busch of misleading USPTO over beer label

American clothing company Patagonia has accused the North American subsidiary of the world’s largest brewery of filing “false evidence” with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in order to “unlawfully” obtain a mark for ‘Patagonia’ in relation to beer.

The claims came in a trademark infringement suit filed in the US District Court for the District of Central California yesterday, April 9.

In the suit, Patagonia accused St. Louis beer company Anheuser-Busch (AB) of “fraudulently” obtaining the ‘Patagonia’ beer mark and letting it lie unused for six years.

According to the suit, the brewery recently established the “fictitious business name” Patagonia Brewing Co.

The beer is marketed with a ‘Patagonia’ logo featuring a mountain silhouette, which Patagonia said infringes its own trademark.

The logo is “strikingly similar to Patagonia’s famous mountain silhouette logo that has appeared continuously for decades on millions of products”, the complaint said.

Patagonia also claimed that AB was trying to capitalise on Patagonia’s reputation for promoting environmental conservation.

“AB has tried to connect its beer with environmental conservation by claiming to plant a tree for each case of beer sold”, the clothing company said.

According to the suit, Patagonia would welcome this initiative if not “for the fact that AB is clearly attempting to copy Patagonia’s famous brand identity to confuse consumers”.

Patagonia also claimed that AB had obtained the mark fraudulently.

The clothing company claimed that AB and German brewery Warsteiner conspired to engage in “subterfuge” to demonstrate intent to use the ‘Patagonia’ beer mark.

According to the suit, Warsteiner filed an application with the USPTO for the ‘Patagonia’ mark in 2006 in class 32 for beer.

Warsteiner filed requests for extensions to submit evidence showing intent of use of the mark until 2012, the complaint said.

Days before Warsteiner’s application was set to expire, Patagonia claimed, an attorney employed by AB filed a statement of use on behalf of Warsteiner.

According to Patagonia, the label submitted as evidence of use was in fact the same that AB had submitted to the US Alcohol and Tobacco Trade and Tax Bureau (TTB) for approval.

The USPTO registered Warsteiner’s ‘Patagonia’ mark in October 2012. In December of that year, the mark was assigned to AB.

The clothing company said that Warsteiner did not have approval for the label and “could not legally have sold beer in this form”.

Patagonia also claimed that AB had misled the USPTO in its 2018 application to renew the mark.

According to the complaint, AB told the office that the mark had been in continuous use for the preceding five years, a claim which Patagonia disputes.

Patagonia is seeking a declaration that AB’s mark was obtained unlawfully, and an award of punitive damages and attorneys’ fees for trademark infringement.

In a statement sent to WIPR, AB said that it believed the lawsuit was "meritless", and that the company would "vigorously defend" its trademark rights.

WIPR has contacted Warsteiner for comment in response to Patagonia’s allegations.

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