California-based retailer, Patagonia, recently filed a lawsuit against Anheuser-Busch InBev’s new “Patagonia” beer brand alleging it unlawfully obtained rights to that mark and further that the mark infringes its trademark rights. The lawsuit alleges Anheuser-Busch is deliberately attempting to take advantage of Patagonia’s tremendous goodwill cultivated in their brand.
Patagonia has been in business for more than forty years and has been involved in designing, developing, marketing, and retailing outdoor apparel, sportswear, and related products. Indeed, the clothier’s products now include a wide range of apparel products and equipment, including technical products designed for climbing, skiing and snowboarding, surfing, fly fishing, and trail running. Further, the complaint alleges, for many years, the brand has been famous in the United States and around the world for innovative apparel designs, quality products and environmental and corporate responsibility. Since at least 1973, the brand has been using the logo comprising PATAGNOIA and a multi-colored silhouette of the jagged peaks of the Mt. Fitz Roy skyline.
Seven years ago, according to the complaint, Anheuser-Busch unlawfully obtained a trademark for Patagonia as applied to “beer.” Later, the beer company filed what is known as a “Statement of Use” proving use of the trademark in commerce. Such evidence usually includes the mark as displayed on products, packaging, or other marketing tools. This filing is important because the United States Patent and Trademark Office will not publish a trademark until it is being actively used. Anheuser-Busch stated that the mark was being used as early as 2012 and its specimen of use comprised photographs of a beer bottle with a PATAGONIA label applied thereto. Patagonia complains that this specimen does not show the beer in a commercial context but rather, consists of a single bottle on a table in a white-walled room. The retailer further claims that Anheuser-Busch did not begin actually selling the beer until 2018.
The lawsuit further alleges that Patagonia owns numerous registrations for and including the standard-character PATAGONIA trademark and its classic logo and that these registrations are in full force and effect. Moreover, Patagonia claims it has annually spent enormous amounts of time, money, and effort advertising and promoting the products and services on which their trademarks are used. As a result, Patagonia products are sold all over the world and the brand has acquired enormous goodwill.
To the contrary, Anheuser-Busch only began using PATAGONIA as applied to beer in late 2018 and as such, has not accumulated any trademark rights. Anheuser-Busch’s logo, similar to Patagonia’s, features the term “PATAGONIA” appearing beneath the silhouette of a mountain. Instead, Patagonia argues, Anheuser-Busch’s use of this trademark and logo have caused consumer confusion in the marketplace. Additionally, this allegedly infringing use, Patagonia claims, is likely to cause dilution of Patagonia’s word trademark by diminishing its distinctiveness.
To make matters more obvious, Patagonia started a food business in 2012 called Patagonia Provisions, Inc. Under this company, Patagonia developed, marketed, and sole socially and environmentally responsible food items under its PATAGONIA PROVISIONS mark, including buffalo jerky, salmon, fruit and almond bars, and soup mixes. In 2016, the food division launched its own beer called Long Root, which used a perennial grain, called Kernza, instead of barley to formulate the beer. Kernza has long roots that store carbon in the ground and Long Root beer thereby services as a vehicle to introduce customers to carbon sequestration as a means of removing greenhouse gases from our atmosphere.
In its lawsuit, Patagonia seeks an order that Anheuser-Busch’s marks incorporating “PATAGONIA” be cancelled. In addition, the clothier requested that the court find the beer company’s use of the mark to infringe and dilute Patagonia’s prior trademark rights. Finally, Patagonia seeks damages as well as an injunction against Anheuser-Busch.