USA: Guns N' Roses sues Oskar Blues Brewery

Guns N' Roses (GNR), the iconic rock band that helped shape the music scene for this generation, is suing Oskar Blues Brewery for naming one of its beers Guns 'N' Rosé, saying the alleged trademark infringement has caused the hard rockers "irreparable damage."

The rock band fronted by Axl Rose accused Oskar Blues Brewery in a complaint filed on Thursday in Los Angeles federal court of intentionally trading off its goodwill, prestige and fame by confusing consumers into thinking the band was connected with the beer and claimed full damage compensation.

Oskar Blues, which is part of the Canarchy Craft Brewing Collective, is selling Guns ‘N’ Rosé since early 2018 in canned and keg form. The rosé colored beer, which is brewed with hibiscus and prickly pear, plays off the dry, tart or fruity flavors of rosé wines - a style which gained popularity last year and recently has gained such a popularity that most major craft breweries have already released their own version.

In August 2018, Oskar Blues filed a trademark application and had a first success when the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) approved the beer label in September. After an unsuccessful informal conversation between the two sides, the band’s lawyer sent a cease-and-desist letter to Oskar Blues and its founder, Dale Katechis, dated December 21, 2018 and protested the brewery’s trademark with the TTB.

“There are other alcohol beverage producers using the same name, including at least two Guns N’ Rosé wines,” answered Oskar Blues’ attorney Katie Bukrinsky, a specialist in intellectual property and trademark law, in a statement on January, 22. As the band owned the trademark only for use with clothing, musical sound recordings, and musical performances, there was no protection for beverages, Bukrinsky argued. “We believe that Oskar Blues’ beer can similarly coexist without creating any likelihood of confusion or dilution of GNR’s marks,” she said, concluding that “we trust that our response above resolves this matter.”

On March 13, Mike Drumm, another attorney specialized in trademark law, send a letter on behalf of GNR to the brewery, and argued that the name Guns N’ Roses is considered to be "famous" under the Trademark Act of 1946 and enjoys more legal protection than other trademarks. He once again demanded the brewery to stop selling the beer and to abandon its trademark application.

Soon later, Bukrinsky answered that “we see no evidence that your client has reached a level of fame to warrant the extraordinary remedies of the Trademark Dilution Revision Act of 2006.” She added that “we were surprised to receive [the letter] as it came almost two months after our January 22 response. During that two-month interval, my client reasonably believed that our correspondence had allayed your client’s concerns, and continued with its plans to release its Guns N’ Rose beer.”

“At this point, rebranding and repackaging its beer requires significant time, effort, and expense,” she went on and therefore, Oskar Blues was willing to abandon its trademark application and permanently cease all sales of Guns 'N' Rosé beer and related merchandise, but not before March 31, 2020.

Last Thursday, the band’s attorney finally filed suit and demanded full damage compensation.

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