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Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose...: Anheuser-Busch loses suit over parody ad.

It may at times have seemed like David versus Goliath, but Rich Balducci -- the David in this case -- has prevailed in his defense of a trademark infringement suit brought by Goliath -- Anheuser-Busch.

Anheuser-Busch, lately no stranger to the trademark law court room, sued Balducci and his wife Kathleen over a full-page parody advertisement they ran in their self-published humor magazine Snicker.

Balducci said the ad for "Michelob Oily" beer was not an attack on A-B, but a humorous attempt to focus attention on the threat of water pollution. In the parody, oil flowed from a spout stuck into a beer can. "One taste and you'll drink it oily," read the ad copy, while an oil-drenched bird resembling A-B's trademark eagle, exclaimed "Yuck."

Anheuser-Busch sought $1 in damages and an injunction against further pranks. They claimed that Snicker's readers confused the parody with genuine A-B advertisements and trademarks.

The brewery used a survey in which 58 percent of the participants who saw the ad parody believed those who made it had to get permission to use the Michelob name.

But the judge hearing the case said A-B "failed to establish that the defendants' ad parody creates a likelihood of confusion."

An attorney for Anheuser-Busch said his client had not decided whether to appeal.

Anheuser-Busch has lately had its share legal tussles over advertising. Last year Coors Brewing Co. sued to stop A-B from running ads denouncing the Colorado brewer's claim of using only Rocky Mountain spring water in its beer.

Coors does, in fact, ships some of its beer in a concentrated form to distant plants where it is reconstituted with local water. More recently, Miller Brewing tried to stop Bud Dry ads that used phrases similar to its own "Great Taste, Less Filling" tag line. Anheuser-Busch prevailed in both of those suits.
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Title Annotation:Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc.
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:Apr 5, 1993
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