The outdoor clothier Patagonia has taken beer giant Anheuser-Busch to court over the brewer’s “Patagonia Beer.” It’s not just that the Anheuser-Busch product shares Patagonia’s name. The brewer allegedly also commandeered Patagonia’s environmentally friendly image and chose a logo that looks a lot like Patagonia’s.
Patagonia, which produces mainly outdoor apparel and sports gear, has developed a reputation for environmental-friendliness. For example, it has worked to end the use of pesticides in conventional cotton. In 2016, it donated $10 million of its Black Friday sales to environmental causes.
In 2012, Patagonia launched a related company called “Patagonia Provisions,” which sells environmentally-friendly foods and snacks — including beer.
Earlier this year, Anheuser-Busch launched the Patagonia Brewing Company to sell Patagonia Beer. According to the Courthouse News Service, Anheuser-Busch rolled the beer out at a ski resort in Colorado. Employees dressed in down jackets gave customers scarves and beanies with its Patagonia Beer logo, which shares a mountain backdrop with the other Patagonia’s logo.
“In short, Anheuser-Busch has done everything possible to make it appear as though this Patagonia beer is sold by Patagonia,” reads the lawsuit.
Patagonia also accuses Anheuser-Busch of lying to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office so that it could obtain a dormant “Patagonia” trademark owned by a German beermaker.
For its part, Anheuser-Busch argues that it purchased a brand called Cerveza Patagonia from an Argentinian company 10 years ago and brought it to the U.S. in 2012. However, it has not been using the trademark “Cerveza Patagonia” trademark for five years.
Trademarks may be improper when they create confusion in the market
Patagonia’s main claim is that its trademark is being diluted by Anheuser-Busch’s use of a similarly-named trademark. It argues that customers are likely to be confused about whether the beer they are buying is made by Patagonia Provisions or Patagonia Beer — and about which brand is truly environmentally friendly.
Anheuser-Busch argues that the moniker “Patagonia” is simply not unique or famous enough for the protection Patagonia is seeking. It also argues that the clothier failed to show that customers could be confused. It sought to have the lawsuit dismissed.
The federal judge hearing the case found that Patagonia had introduced sufficient evidence that the name “Patagonia” is famous enough to protect and that customers could be confused. She refused to dismiss the suit.