Empire Brewing deals with ‘Star Wars’ trademark battle
As Empire Brewing Company looks to expand and bottle several of its more loved beers, the brewery has encountered a trademark battle with Lucasfilm for its cleverly named brew “Strikes Bock.” The beverage, which pays homage to the legendary film “The Empire Strikes Back,” has been served on tap at Empire’s brewpub for several years, but the company has not had to trademark the name since it has not yet been bottled and distributed the beer, according to the Post-Standard. Empire quickly released a video responding to the allegations, citing that the beer in question is simply a parody honoring the film. Empire has hired legal council to address the issue; however, the company has stated that it cannot wage a long-term battle with a Hollywood giant.
For students in online cooking classes the complaint probably seems somewhat farfetched and unnecessary. After all, it’s highly unlikely anyone will confuse the suds they’re quaffing with the legendary “Star Wars” film franchise. However, Lucasfilm, which is now owned by the Walt Disney Company, seems to see things a bit differently.
In a complaint to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office the film company stated, “Applicant’s EMPIRE STRIKES BOCK mark … so resembles Lucasfilm’s previously used THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK mark as to be likely, when used in connection with Applicant’s Goods, to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive.”
The film’s title has been tacked onto a plethora of merchandise including T-shirts, coffee mugs and Lego sets, all of which are used as examples in Lucasfilm’s complaint. However, it is the official “Star Wars” food and wine products that may be the more direct cause of the dispute. Yet, since the beer has so far only been served on tap there have been no problems with use of the name. Assuming the brewers don’t copy and paste promotional materials from the movie directly onto the bottle, there likely won’t be any issues with their customers mistaking the beer for something created or endorsed by Disney. Filing the trademark itself is much a necessity, because packaging and distributing the beer is both a massive expense and commitment to a name, encouraging the brewery to try a lock down the Strikes Bock moniker.
However, according to The Guardian, Empire Brewing may face a losing battle due to other “Star Wars” references. While Disney clearly doesn’t want the brewery’s offerings confused with an official “Star Wars” libation, attacking a tiny brewpub seems a bit excessive.