Honey Brown Beer Is Honey Brown Beer Is Honey Brown Beer SW Legal Educational Publishing

Honey Brown Beer Is Honey Brown Beer Is Honey Brown Beer
Description First brewer of a beer often called "Honey Brown" cannot have trademark protection for those words since they are generic in describing beer. Brewer may have a cause of action for unfair competition if it can show that other brewers intended to create confusion among brands all using the same generic terms. (Updated 10-3-97)
Topic Intellectual Property
Key Words Trademark; Generic Marks; Unfair Competition; Confusion
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Genesee marketed a successful specialty beer called "JW Dundee's Honey Brown Lager." It has a trademark for that name. The label on the beer and ads for it emphasize "Honey Brown," which is what it is often called by patrons, bartenders, and on menus. Later, Stroh’s marketed "Red River Valley Honey Brown Ale," which competes with Genesee’s beer. Stroh’s ads emphasize "Honey Brown." Other beers also now use the words "Honey Brown" in their brand names. Genesee sued Stroh for appropriating its trademark and requested an injunction against Stroh from using the words "Honey Brown." The motion was denied. "Honey Brown" is a generic term that cannot be trademarked. Genesee appealed.
Decision Affirmed. "Generic marks are never entitled to trademark protection." Honey brown is a generic category of beer, just as light beer is a generic category. Stroh’s beer is an ale that is brown in color and flavored with honey; the words in the name are descriptive, as are those in Genesee’s lager that is brown in color and honey flavored. However, Genesee might have a claim for unfair competition if it can show that Stroh’s advertising and marketing campaigns have created a likelihood of confusion between the products. For example, some restaurants and bars have switched to the cheaper Stroh’s brand but leave the name "Honey Brown" unchanged on their label, thereby creating possible confusion between the brands.
Citation Genesee Brewing v. Stroh Brewing, ---F.3d--- (1997 WL 487376, 2nd Cir.)
124 F.3d 137 (2nd Cir., 1997)

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