N.C. Tribe sues Anheuser-Busch for”Unscrupulous” Trademark Infringement

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This week the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina filed a federal lawsuit against Anheuser-Busch InBev and R.A. Jeffreys Distributing Co., claiming infringement of a tribal trademark and slogan in advertisements at gas stations.

The lawsuit alleges that by using the Lumbee circular tribe logo and the “Heritage, Pride & Strength” slogan in beer advertisements at gas stations, AB InBev is creating the false impression that the tribe is affiliated with Bud Light.  The Lumbee logo is visible at the top left of the photo, consisting of a circular shape that “is symbolic of the Circle of Life.”

The lawsuit claims AB InBev’s use of its tribal trademark in advertisements is “immoral, unethical, oppressive, (and) unscrupulous.” Counsel for the plaintiffs further noted that as alcohol and drug abuse are often associated with Native American culture, AB InBev’s use of these marks to promote alcohol is “particularly offensive to Lumbee people.” The plaintiffs are seeking court costs and profits derived from using the tribe’s trademark.

The Lumbee Tribe is the ninth-largest in the United States, and calls itself the largest tribe in North Carolina. They are largely centered in the eastern part of NC in Robeson County.

Thanks to the Charlotte Business Journal – link to article is here.

 

 

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Summer Starts with New GA Craft Brewery Rules in Effect

As noted back in January, Georgia’s craft beer breweries and wholesalers reached a truce, resulting in the new rules taking effect just in time for Memorial Day holiday weekend:

  • Georgia Breweries can now offer visitor tours at different prices based on the quantity and type of beer offered as “free souvenirs”

“The Georgia Craft Brewers Guild is deeply appreciative of the work the Department of Revenue did in getting these regulations written and approved,” Guild executive director Nancy Palmer said. “Today breweries across the state can now use social media to talk about where their products are sold, and they can charge whatever prices they see fit for their tour and tasting packages, including tours with to-go souvenirs.”

For now, Georgia craft beer fans will have to wait to get their growlers filled directly at the brewery.  It remains illegal for Georgia’s 52 breweries to sell beer directly to consumers. Breweries, like liquor distilleries, must sell their product to wholesalers, who then sell it to retailers.

Original Article can be found here; thanks to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Alabama Craft Brewers Push for Growlers, Direct Sales

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Let Peyton Manning have all the Budweiser he wants – with that (unpaid?) sales pitch at the end of Super Bowl 50, I have a feeling there’s already a team of Clydesdales and a hefty supply of Buds waiting in his driveway.

Meanwhile brewers in Alabama would likely prefer to celebrate a win in their state legislature by cracking open a 6-pack or a growler full of craft beer with their customers. Brewpubs & breweries currently have to turn away customers who ask for growler fills, and direct them to the nearest retailer who stocks their beer (and hopefully still has some available!) Otherwise, any beer sold at the brewery must be consumed on the premises.

Dan Roberts, executive director of the Alabama Brewers Guild, said Alabama is the only state in the U.S. that doesn’t allow customers to “leave a brewery with beer.” The guild represents 27 brewers across the state.

The Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Study Commission voted on recommendations for presentation to the state legislature to ease restrictions on brewpubs, wineries, distilleries, and also to allow for greater retail opportunities.  The recommendations passed a few weeks ago include the following:

  • Small brewers and brewpubs would be able to sell less than 60,000 barrels per year for retail, and sell up to 288 ounces per consumer per day, in any packaging including bottles, cans or growlers.
  • Brewpubs would no longer have to be located in a historic building or economically distressed area.
  • Brewers could directly deliver beer to charity functions, up to two kegs per event.
  • Alabama wineries would be able to retail wines at one ABC-board approved location.
  • Alabama distilleries would be able to directly sell consumers up to one 750 milliliter bottle of their spirits per person per year, only for off-premise consumption.

Members of the Commission traveled to North Carolina and Colorado to study and review those states’ laws, where the craft beer industry is thriving.

Text of Alabama Senate Bill 542 is here.

 

GA Wholesalers and Breweries Declare A Truce – For Now

beer tour imageGeorgia craft beer breweries and distilleries have reportedly reached an agreement with the state’s wholesalers in an attempt to avoid further battles over how these small businesses operate. 

How did we get here?  Last year, Georgia legislators passed laws to allow customers to purchase a brewery tour and receive “free” beer at the end of tour. Under that law, breweries would offer different tours at varying price points depending on the style and price of the beer offered.  Two months later, the Department of Revenue responded with new rules, forbidding breweries from changing the price of the tours based on the type of beer offered. Local breweries were furious, accusing the Department of Revenue for giving in to the demands of the wholesalers. Since then, the brewers and distillers combined forces and been demanding sweeping changes to Georgia’s alcohol laws. 

What are the terms of the truce? According to the deal, the Georgia Department of Revenue will issue new rules: 

  • Allow brewers again to sell brewery tours at variable prices based on the kind of beer offered.
  • Allow special events at breweries and distilleries.
  • Let brewers, distilleries and wholesalers use social media to alert the public about where to buy their products or advertise special events.
  • Allow third parties to sell tour tickets.
  • Let breweries and distilleries sell food on site.
  • And…the breweries and distilleries have promised not to seek any further changes to the alcohol laws for 2016.

Members of the Georgia Brewers Guild don’t see this as a “win” for breweries right now, but others hope that it’s a tiny step in the right direction.

*Tip of the hat to GA Beer Laws; Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

Charlotte Craft Breweries Hopeful to Raise the Production Cap

Charlotte news outlet FOX 46 interviewed Olde Mecklenburg Brewery‘s sales director about their decision to back out of the Triad market due to the NC law capping craft beer production at 25,000 barrels per year.  Click here for the video.

Opponents of the current law claim that the annual 25,000 barrel limit abruptly cuts off small breweries’ abilities to grow, and does little to incentivize their investment in delivery trucks, kegs, and new employees. Once a brewery hits the cap, they are required to hand over distribution for ALL of their beer to a third-party distributor, thus third party would gain control over all sales, delivery, distribution and quality control during transportation (everything that matters to the Brewery), resulting in a loss about 30% of the brewery’s revenue and margin to the distributor. 

Many breweries would prefer to engage a third-party distributor as their own business decision, and not be forced to comply with an arbitrary rule. While North Carolina is often cited to have the most “beer-friendly” laws in the Southeastern USA, there is still room for improvement. South Carolina limits breweries to selling 48 ounces of beer to consumers in a 24-hour period, while Georgia breweries have been fighting for over a decade for the mere ability to sell growlers.

The craft beer scene has exploded in cities like Asheville, Charlotte and Raleigh, creating jobs and adding to the tourism industry.  Local consumers and beer fans alike could help to further convince legislators to update the law to meet today’s practical considerations. 

See also: http://www.craftfreedom.org

500 Years of the German Beer Purity Law

Not only does 2016 mark the beginning of this blog, it is also the 500th anniversary of the Reinheitsgebotthe German beer purity order adopted in Bavaria in 1516. According to the Reinheitsgebot, if a beverage is to be considered as “beer,”  it can only contain 3 ingredients: water, barley and hops. Thereafter, yeast has also been considered an acceptable ingredient.

Whether one chooses to closely follow the Reinheitsgebot, like Charlotte’s own German-style Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, or to boldly experiment with fruit, coffee, or spices to create a uniquely American craft beer, today’s breweries have much more on their minds than a half-century-old Bavarian purity law: State and Federal Regulations, Supply and Distribution Agreements, Trademarks, Employment Matters, to name a few.

Legal Draughts is a place to share conversations, thoughts, and musings about craft beer, the business of brews, and the law.  Welcome and Prost!

 

*disclaimer: This blog is provided for informational purposes only and none of the information provided should be considered to be legal advice.