Lucasfilm, the production company behind Star Wars, has filed a trade mark dispute with a small brewery in New York. Lucasfilm, a subsidiary of Disney, is opposing Empire Brewing Company’s application for its ‘Strikes Bock’ brand of beer.
Lucas argues that Empire’s beer infringes Lucasfilm’s trade marks and could be used to deceive consumers or cause brand confusion. The trade mark could create a play on ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ movie if used together with the first part of the brewer’s name.
In a filing to the US Trade mark Trial and Appeal Board Lucasfilm described the ‘Strikes Bock’ mark as “virtually identical in sound, appearance, and connotation” to its ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ trade mark. Lucasfilm has a history of using the Star Wars Film Franchise marks in connection with food and beverages, including wine, which increases the confusion that the mark would cause.
The brewery has been making the ‘Strikes Bock’ beer for seven years yet never registered a trade mark because it was only served on tap. The trade mark is being sought now because there is the intention of bottling and selling the beer in stores.
The small brewery does not have the financial resources to battle Lucasfilm long-term, creating an imbalance in the force. However Lucasfilm is determined to protect its trade mark stating that the name could dilute the distinctive quality of ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ brand.
Empire has struck back with a video message posted online stating it never intended to cause confusion with the Star Wars film. However during the video there is a Stormtrooper stirring a vat of beer with a light sabre in the background. The owners of Empire insist that the brand of beer should be viewed as a parody and that they are all big Star Wars fans.
Will Empire Brewing know the power of the dark side?