News: Alcoholic drink branding, trademarks and passing off

One must wonder whether sometimes actions in passing off or trademark infringement are used in an oppressive way. A group of English parents whose children attended a school called Belleville Primary set up a micro-brewery called Belleville which produces Belleville pale ale. They now face legal action from US drinks manufacturer Anheuser-Busch, the makers of Budweiser. Anheuser-Busch claims that there is a chance that Belleville pale ale may be confused with its product, Belle-Vue, a fruit flavoured beer.

The branding of alcoholic drinks appears to be particularly prone to legal controversy. The High Court has been called to rule on the trademark of the name of “Great Western” in respect of wine in Thomson v B Seppelt & Sons and on the trademark of the name “Barefoot” in respect of wine and beer in E & J Gallo Winery v Lion Nathan Australia Pty Ltd. Then of course there was the infamous “Duff Beer” case heard by the Federal Court, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation v South Australian Brewing Co. And the seminal English case on passing off, Erven Warnink v Townend & Sons involved an alcoholic drink called advocaat.

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About Katy Barnett

Katy Barnett is a Professor at Melbourne Law School. She has published extensively in the areas of private law and remedies, and is a co-author of ‘Remedies in Australian Private Law’ with Dr Sirko Harder. In 2016 she received the Barbara Falk Award for excellence in teaching.

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