By Sade Tidwell
Los Angeles – The world’s largest beer brewer, Anheuser-Busch, is gearing up for battle against a much smaller brewery over its slogan which deems itself the “The Queen of Beer.” The Budweiser manufacturer has long touted its best-selling product as the “King of Beers” and currently holds trademark registrations for the phrase from everything from the obvious beers to clothing, neon signs and sauces and marinades.
Records on file with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) show that the St. Louis based beer giant has been using the “King of Beers” slogan since the early 1950’s. It comes as little surprise, therefore that it did not take kindly to SHE Beverage Company, a much smaller brewer out of Southern California recently seeking trademark protection of “The Queen of Beer.”
The Lancaster, California headquartered company filed its application in December of 2014 in relation to beer. Shortly after its publication in May, Anheuser-Busch filed an action to oppose the further progress of the trademark, claiming that customers are likely to be confused into thinking that the two brands are linked due to the similar catchphrases.
According to its website, SHE Beverage Company makes beverage products that are “designed to meet the nutrition needs of the female audience.” It specifically references its SHE Beer as “the first and only beer created with women in mind” and touts that its “exclusive recipes are complex and designed to meet the discriminating taste of the female consumer.”
While a spokesperson for SHE has been quick to point out that the two companies seek different target audiences, in its filing with the Trademark Trials and Appeals Board (TTAB), Anheuser-Busch claims that the two trademarks are almost identical, but for the replacement of the word King with Queen. Given the close connotation between the two words, they argue that use of both slogans in relation to beers would be confusing to the public. The opposition proceedings have just begun, but According to SHE’s co-owner, Lupe Rose, SHE has no plans to give in.
Sade’s response: This case is a close-call. Ordinarily I would be suspicious of such a large actor, like Anheuser-Busch, but their claim does have some validity. Moreover, if the infringement claim fails to pass the Court’s muster, then Busch will likely have a colorable dilution claim for blurring. In analyzing whether the marks are confusingly similar and establishing a likelihood of confusion, the Court will likely examine the marks based on the Dupont factors. Based on appearance, sound, connotation, and commercial impression, the marks are very similar. I agree with Anheuser-Busch that the two trademarks are almost identical, but for the replacement of the word King with Queen. Their overall connotation lends similar ideas—one catering to the man versus the woman. The goods are essentially the same, beer, absent the distinction of SHE Beverage Company’s focus on the female. Their trade channels, however, are in stark contrast. Busch is the world’s largest beer brewer, while SHE is a smaller brewer out of Southern California. SHE has a more regional presence, whereas Bush is known nationwide. Thus, it is less likely that consumers would confuse the local “Queen of Beer” slogan with that of Busch’s “King of Beer.” Although the condition in which sales are made semi-impulsive, the fame of Anheuser-Busch should allow a beer drinker to be able to distinguish such a prominent brewer as opposed to a local, small-time brewer. Moreover, there are several other marks on the register that sell beer with “king” or “queen” in the mark. Lastly, actual confusion will probably be set forth in the opposition proceedings. Anheuser-Busch has more of a chance with a dilution claim of blurring, because they could argue that the SHE brewer is so similar and Busch brewery has reached such a level of fame that the similarity of the marks could cause a mental association from the consumer that would result in a loss of distinctiveness of Busch’s mark. Maybe they could assert that the mere association of the two marks won’t necessarily confuse the consumer as to who the brewer really is, but will fool the consumer into thinking the two companies are affiliated. I am eager to see what the result is at the close the opposition proceedings.