Star Wars Beers And The LucasFilm Legal Team

Star Wars Beers And The LucasFilm Legal Team



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Toppling Goliath has Light Speed.

New England Brewing has Imperial Stout Trooper.

Empire Brewing has Empire Strikes Bock.

LucasFilm has a problem when it comes to Star Wars beers.

Iowa’s Toppling Goliath’s Light Speed – an American Pale Ale (5.8% ABV) – was originally labeled Millennium Falcon. As the brewery describes it now, “this seasonal pale ale was crafted with a perfect mixture of Millennium hops and Falconer’s Flight blend. Inviting orange aroma and hints of lemon flavor in this medium-bodied beauty will make you want to drink yours at light speed!”

Connecticut’s New England Brewing’s Imperial Stout Trooper – a Russian Imperial Stout (8.5% ABV) – is one of NEB’s most popular beers. “Brewed in a brewery not too far away and not too long ago,” NEB notes on their website, “Imperial Stout Trooper is “a full bodied stout with a majestic blend of seven different malts and Northern Brewer hops.”

Imperial Stout Trooper, which launched in 2006, made it three years before Lucasfilm’s legal team reached out, said NEB’s owner and head brewer Rob Leonard. “They were very nice and pointed out that they too have a similar image that is protected and we should probably change ours,” Leonard said. NEB did change the bottle label and continues to brew Imperial Stout Trooper.

Empire Brewing, located in Syracuse, N.Y., has Strikes Bock (6.5% ABV) which is a traditional German style Mai-Bock. “This is a true lager, made with German lager yeast and fermented for six weeks. The flavors are malt forward with a medium body, finishing with a dry peppery flavor that is derived from the hops,” according to Empire Brewing.

 LucasFilm – which was acquired by Disney – has a series of hugely successful movies – which were just released on digital HD this weekend. As LucasFilm’s lawyers describe Star Wars:
“In 1977, Lucasfilm released the first in a series of enormously successful films within its STAR WARS film franchise entitled “STAR WARS.” The STAR WARS film series was created by George Lucas, and featured the actors Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Harrison Ford as Han Solo, Carrie Fischer as Princess Leia, and Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi, among others. The first film in the series introduces a space galaxy in civil war where Luke Skywalker joins forces with Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, Han Solo, a “Wookiee” named Chewbacca, and two Droids, R2D2 and C3PO, to save the universe from the Galactic Empire’s battle-station Death Star, and to rescue Princess Leia from the evil character Darth Vader. The STAR WARS film earned hundreds of millions of dollars in domestic box office revenues, and an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. The original STAR WARS film was followed by two sequels, and a trilogy of prequels, which have been enormously successful and popular among consumers. Further, Lucasfilm has announced plans to release several new films as part of the STAR WARS film franchise (collectively, the “STAR WARS Film Franchise”).”
 
That description of Star Wars comes from a Notice of Opposition filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office because Empire Brewing wants to trademark Strikes Bock because they want to package it for sale when they open their Farmstead Brewery on 22 acres in Cazenovia, N.Y. later this year.
Lucasfilms cites “priority” and “likelihood of confusion” as the reasons for the objection to Strikes Bock being trademarked. (You can read the entire filing and the additional motions here.)
Lucasfilms contends that Empire Brewing’s Strikes Bock trademark is “virtually identical in sound, appearance, and connotation,” and that “Lucasfilm has a long history of using such marks for food and beverages, including wine. The fact that consumers have been exposed to and accustomed to seeing Lucasfilm’s STAR WARS Film Franchise marks in connection with food and beverages, including wine, increases the already existing likelihood of confusion.” (The wine the lawyers reference is George Lucas’ Skywalker Vineyards.)
Lawyers representing Lucasfilms didn’t respond to requests for comment. And Empire Brewing owner David Katleski said he was withholding comment during the legal process.
When the story originally broke everyone from Syracuse.com to Eater to Gothamist to The Guardian wrote about it. Katleski and Empire’s head brewer Tim Butler even made a video to illustrate their stance that Strikes Bock is a parody.  Empire has brewed Strikes Bock for years, since June 2004 according to their trademark application.

According to legal filings, Empire Brewing’s request to have Lucasfilm’s opposition to the trademark was denied on March 27 so trial schedule proceedings are resumed.
Empire Brewing has until April 16 – the first day of Star Wars Celebration a Star Wars convention in Anaheim, California – to file an amended notice with the court.

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