Sony sues Knee Deep Brewing over "Breaking Bud"

Discussion in 'Beer News & Releases' started by CHL, Apr 18, 2018.

  1. CHL

    CHL Aspirant (225) Mar 27, 2009 Illinois
    Lawsuit seeks an accounting of profit and treble damages for willful trademark infringement. Doesn't seem like they'd have much of a parody defense (which is narrower in trademark than copyright).

    Imagine they settle for undisclosed terms, probably destroying their remaining labels and paying attorneys' fees.
  2. reefer_bob

    reefer_bob Aspirant (283) May 13, 2014 California

    Seemed like it was just a matter of time...
  3. AZBeerDude72

    AZBeerDude72 Meyvn (1,425) Jun 10, 2016 Arizona
    Premium Trader

    So Sony has rights to the Periodic Table of Elements and anyone wearing a lab coat. LOL I would take them to court and see how it played out.
  4. atomicpunk5151

    atomicpunk5151 Initiate (173) Jul 25, 2010 California

    They were probably hoping it would just go away since the show Breaking Bad ended back in 2013. Maybe the re-airing rights are coming up for bidding soon?

    When this KD can design came out, most locals in NORCAL here thought they would get sued right away since it was so blatant and close to the Breaking Bad design. But really, so many beer designs are parodies or spoofs.

    Breaking Bud has probably been Knee Deep's best seller since it came out back in 2014. I am sure they really want to keep the name at least.
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  5. Ranbot

    Ranbot Zealot (547) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    There are many other beer names/labels I could say this about too....
  6. AZBeerDude72

    AZBeerDude72 Meyvn (1,425) Jun 10, 2016 Arizona
    Premium Trader

    Maybe Budweiser can jump in and say they cannot use "Bud" in their name. Slippery slope.
    Maybe Stone has a valid point after all, I mean if the big boys can attack over name rights does the smaller guy not have a voice. Interesting.
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  7. IPAExpert69

    IPAExpert69 Initiate (170) Aug 2, 2017 New Jersey

    The only reasonable argument is Parody Law. Stone thinks their case is obvious (when it's not), but this one is SOOOO obvious. I love this beer too and hope they somehow pull it off, but I'd put their odds at 0.000001% Sony is not the company to fuck with.
  8. ManBearPat

    ManBearPat Devotee (428) Dec 2, 2014 Colorado

    R. I. P.
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  9. keilerdunkel

    keilerdunkel Initiate (167) Apr 8, 2004 Illinois

    I think their odds are better than you give them, but they have an argument ahead of them. It does look like a parody, but....
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  10. CHL

    CHL Aspirant (225) Mar 27, 2009 Illinois

    So McDonald's has rights to a pair of yellow arcs as a stylized 'm'?

    Answer: yes, they do. I don't recommend taking them to court about it.

    Doesn't even seem close to me; interlocking green boxes with numbers in the corner to evoke periodic table, only one letter difference. Comes down to parody defense.
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  11. AZBeerDude72

    AZBeerDude72 Meyvn (1,425) Jun 10, 2016 Arizona
    Premium Trader

    Will be interesting to see how it plays out. I can see both sides. If they were smart they would alter their cans just a little and move on. I bet they could do a little work on that and then both sides would be happy.
  12. BigJim5021

    BigJim5021 Zealot (568) Sep 2, 2007 Indiana

    Knee Deep's labels are embarrassingly low-rent looking to begin with and this one is no exception. I don't think it would be the end of the world if they had to come up with a new label.
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  13. ManBearPat

    ManBearPat Devotee (428) Dec 2, 2014 Colorado

    Should be able to keep the name though, right?
  14. CHL

    CHL Aspirant (225) Mar 27, 2009 Illinois

    Probably depends on how hard ass Sony wants to be in settlement. They could demand more than trademark law requires because of the prospect of back damages in suit.

    That said, if Knee Deep's label showed a monkey hammering a giant hop blossom (or whatever) with "Breaking Bud" in ordinary type, I doubt Sony would have even sent them a letter.
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  15. MistaRyte

    MistaRyte Devotee (445) Jan 14, 2008 Virginia

    Change the name to "Breaking Sad" to lament about any infringement Sony might be feeling
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  16. Oktoberfiesta

    Oktoberfiesta Aspirant (251) Nov 16, 2013 New Mexico

    Around my parts, I saw just about every youth group, balloon group, restaurant, and local sports group use some form of the periodic table box design for their shirts, banners, websites. None seemed to feature br ba in their own green boxes (which is pretty much identical to the show). So I think that's where the main problem lies. Most were able to use other abbreviations for their boxed elements.

    I will say the number of movie puns and music puns and social puns used on beer labels is astonishing. I really wonder how there isn't more lawsuits out there.

    Is there a statue of limitations on filling a lawsuits? Shows been over for 5 years now. They've been making that beer for many years now. Can Sony demand all profits from all years? Seems like one could just wait until a product is popular and then sue
    beertunes likes this.
  17. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,520) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Premium Trader

    I am genuinely amazed that this isn't happening all over the place. Maybe the brewers have developed a false sense of security about this whole issue at this point.
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  18. Oktoberfiesta

    Oktoberfiesta Aspirant (251) Nov 16, 2013 New Mexico

    What's the deal with song lyrics being used on cans/bottles? Either lyrics themselves or song titles. 90% of these people call it a tribute to said artist. Some are slightly obscure. Other than sometimes seeing them on Amazon on shirts, beer has not been regulated in any solid manner yet. When will Sony hand out 40-50 lawsuits? Like I don't want it to happen but do feel it's out of hand.
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  19. dcotom

    dcotom Poo-Bah (2,038) Aug 4, 2014 Iowa
    Premium Trader

    OK, here's what Knee Deep should do: with great fanfare, they should announce that they are changing the name of the beer to " 'Sall Good, Man: A Prequel" and festoon the label with a generic image of a sleazebag lawyer holding a fistful of cash and wearing a space blanket.

    All publicity is good publicity, right?
    swolepeer, Harrison8, AirBob and 7 others like this.
  20. readyski

    readyski Aspirant (231) Jun 4, 2005 California

    I wonder if Sony first attemped a phone call whereby both sides could discuss, rather than burst in with both guns blazing:money_mouth:
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  21. lordofthewiens

    lordofthewiens Poo-Bah (4,544) Sep 17, 2005 New Mexico

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  22. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (2,073) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Premium Trader

    I think some have, as in "it's just a joke man, nobody is going to take it seriously" while knowing they're bootstraping on someone else's acquired name recognition.
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  23. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,520) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Premium Trader

    Not just the name- in many cases, like this one, it's the graphics as well. This one immediately comes to mind:
    surfcaster, LuskusDelph and cello like this.
  24. TriggerFingers

    TriggerFingers Disciple (324) Apr 29, 2012 California

    Maybe they'll have to rename it? Honestly, I don't care what KD calls it. I just buy it because the brewery is 20 minutes away...its fresh...and its good!
    GreenBayBA likes this.
  25. beertunes

    beertunes Poo-Bah (5,683) Sep 24, 2007 Washington

    Depends on who has the better lawyers.

    That said, I'm on Team Whatthehelltookemsolong? Gotta be some reason they are taking action now.
  26. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (2,073) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Premium Trader

    Or this one . . .

  27. BigJim5021

    BigJim5021 Zealot (568) Sep 2, 2007 Indiana

    To be fair, if anyone is gonna have a sense of humor about this kind of situation it’s Mel Brooks.
  28. Ranbot

    Ranbot Zealot (547) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    Spaceballs is one of my favorite movies, so [trademark issues aside] I like this; but their use of purple in the background/lettering makes this extra funny to me... funny in a very immature way, but still funny.

    EDIT: ...and I agree with the poster above that Mel Brooks probably doesn't care.
  29. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (2,073) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Premium Trader

    I don't know if Mr. Brooks is laughing or even cares but the current Star Wars franchise is kicking along and perhaps those Corporate Dark Lords are not amused.
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  30. Ranbot

    Ranbot Zealot (547) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    And how much they even care to negotiate or "play nice" with redesigns. Sony's a big company, they don't do beer, they have far more important things to do than review, negotiate, and approve a tiny little brewer's labels who shouldn't have infringed in the first place. People who think Sony is bullying aren't going to change their mind if they play nice now. What does Sony gain by working with Knee Deep? ...Nothing.
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    THANAT0PSIS Crusader (767) Aug 3, 2010 Wisconsin

    I am not a lawyer, but I have to assume the parody defense is not going to work for the reason that what if Sony/Breaking Bad folks wanted to contract out a Breaking Bad-themed beer? The possibility that this Knee Deep beer would be confused with something like that is much higher than that of the Stone/KeyStone situation. Even though this is hypothetical, ultimately they must defend their trademark if they feel it is being infringed upon.

    To the question of, "Why now?" I assume Sony just became aware of this. Knee Deep is not on the level of Stone, Sierra Nevada, New Beligum, Lagunitas, Founders, or Sam Adams, so it seems logical that Sony may not have been aware of this beer for some time. This is just my assumption, though.

    I do believe this is an infringement since it is so very blatant (the artwork more than the name), but I don't know where the line is, and I don't believe that every single beer that references a movie, TV show, album, song, lyric, piece of art, book, etc. should be subject to legal action. I certainly hope this is not the first in a cascade of lawsuits, since most beer companies are likely to lose to the corporate legal teams of the trademark holders in most of the possible cases. Referencing things in other mediums is fun as long as it is in good taste and not in a deceptive way. I don't think Knee Deep is being deceptive, but I do think they step over the line a little in just how obvious the reference is and how prevalent it is in every aspect of the beer (except the brewing process of course).
  32. BigJim5021

    BigJim5021 Zealot (568) Sep 2, 2007 Indiana

    Dark Helmet is from Spaceballs, Mel Brooks’ parody of Star Wars.
    Lahey likes this.
  33. Lahey

    Lahey Disciple (386) Nov 12, 2016 Michigan

    I'm curious as to why sony would sue over this, unless they want to brew beer in the near future. My guess would be an easy payday... or maybe they're worried about the brewer making merch that would take money out of their pockets. I just don't see how a beer parody would hurt their business in any way. I also don't understand flexing legal muscle over everything, but maybe I'm a fool.
  34. Giantspace

    Giantspace Defender (678) Dec 22, 2011 Pennsylvania

    Right but it still looks like and insinuates Darth Vader. My bet would be If Disney did not want this beer out there it would be gone. The mouse has really deep pockets.

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  35. MostlyNorwegian

    MostlyNorwegian Zealot (502) Feb 5, 2013 Illinois

    Well. It is definitely time Knee Deep does something about updating that look.
    Glad someone at Sony told them to step it up.
  36. CHL

    CHL Aspirant (225) Mar 27, 2009 Illinois

    I doubt Sony is hoping to get rich from this--more likely just a brand manager trying to preserve their trademark's value. Some background.

    1. Sony licenses vodka with name "Breaking Bad." Possible the licensee was pissed breweries are using the same concept for free and agitated for Sony to do something. This happens.
    2. Sony could very well decide to license the brand for beer too. Ommegang's Game of Thrones licensed beer comes to mind.
    3. Sony opposed Austin Beerwork's trademark application for "Heisenberg" last summer. That might have tipped them off to the Breaking Bud problem. They terminated their opposition without a decision. Could be they realized it was a bad case for them because Austin Beerworks has been using the brand name since 2013--the mark is still registered to Austin Beerworks. Odd. Anyhow, the long use of the brand is a very bad fact for Sony's effort to oppose the trademark.
    4. Statute of limitations and laches defense often occur at 4 years. Knee Deep has been packaging this for three years, I gather. For Sony, it was time to object now or possibly forever hold their peace.
  37. Lahey

    Lahey Disciple (386) Nov 12, 2016 Michigan

    Fair enough. I get protecting a trademark, but on an old show that's mostly off the air but reruns it seems unnecessary
    beertunes likes this.
  38. JasonJYoung

    JasonJYoung Initiate (93) Jan 7, 2015 Washington

    For real though, a little surprised it took this long for the lawsuit to happen. Between the name and label artwork, Sony will simply outlast/outspend Knee Deep. In other words: $$$Billions vs $$$Millions in resources.

    Advise: Throw in the towel early Knee Deep.
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  39. beertunes

    beertunes Poo-Bah (5,683) Sep 24, 2007 Washington

    BTW, you're not the only regular with that job description. To quote Sgt Hulka: lighten up Francis.
  40. BigJim5021

    BigJim5021 Zealot (568) Sep 2, 2007 Indiana

    It only insinuated Darth Vader when Mel Brooks made the character. The beer itself is literally a direct reference to the Spaceballs character, to which Disney holds no claim. That makes it MGM’s character to protect.