Sony sues brewery over Breaking Bad themed beer

Sony Pictures has filed a lawsuit against California brewery Knee Deep Brewing and is seeking an injunction to stop it from using the name ‘Breaking Bud’ and the current logo and design on its beer.

Sony, the production company for the hit American television series Breaking Bad, filed the complaint on 17 April and is suing Knee Deep Brewing for trademark infringement, false designation of origin, trademark dilution and unfair competition. It is also seeking an injunction to stop the brewery from using the current name, logo and design, as well as damages.

According to the complaint, Breaking Bad “became one of the most watched cable shows on American television and has been ranked by the Guinness World Records as the most critically acclaimed show of all time”.

It continued: “The right to associate one’s business with the Breaking Bad marks and accompanying reputation and goodwill associated therewith is extremely valuable. Indeed, companies pay substantial licensing fees for such rights in order to promote and identify their businesses, products and services with the Breaking Bad marks and show.

It states that Knee Deep Brewing began producing its ‘Breaking Bud’ beer in 2015 and calls the move “an obvious effort to trade on the fame and recognition”. It adds that the brewery “deliberately imitated the Breaking Bad logo and marketed their product by incorporating other design elements”.

“Simply put, rather than investing the time, effort and resources necessary to establish their own reputation and identity, Defendants have instead opted to hijack the famous brand identity associated with SPT [Sony] and its Breaking Bad show for Defendants’ own intended benefit”.

In a response to the complaint posted on the brewery website, Knee Deep Brewing CEO Jerry Moore cited previous contact with Sony three years ago. He stated that he had no indication that the corporation had a problem with his beer at that time. In addition, he said that his customers realised that the beer label was “a joke” and not affiliated with the television show.

Moore stated: “I was surprised by the unexpected lawsuit filed against us by Sony, especially after they originally contacted us many years ago touting their appreciation of our Breaking Bud beer that made gentle fun of their show. Shortly after Breaking Bud was introduced, in early 2015, I actually received an email from a Sony representative that said: “It seems the Knee Deep team are big fans of Breaking Bad and we really appreciate the call out to our very popular show”.

“Soon thereafter I spoke with the Sony representative and we discussed the potential benefits of a formal partnership between Knee Deep and Sony, but we ultimately decided not to pursue such a partnership because, among other things, our label has always been meant as a joke and not something seriously connected to the show.

“At no point, during those discussions, did Sony ever threaten to sue Knee Deep over the name of the beer. I’ve always been under the impression that Sony had no issue with our Breaking Bud beer since, after all, the Sony rep is the one who told me he “appreciate(ed) the call out to over very popular show” which is hardly what one would expect from someone who thinks they can sue you for the “call out” if you don’t pay them a licensing fee, which is what I gather they now want from us.

“Breaking Bud is one of our more successful beers, and I think our customers appreciate that the quirky label is a joke. No one has ever thought the joke meant we were endorsed by Breaking Bad. We are a small brewery and I don’t appreciate the distraction, not to mention the expense of having to deal with something that should have been addressed 3 years ago if Sony really had an issue with it.

“At the end of the day, the quality of the beer is what has made Breaking Bud popular and we should all be able to take a joke”.

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