A trademark tiff between America’s oldest beer maker and America's best-selling beer brand appears to be over before it really began.
Last week, D.G. Yuengling & Son, the nearly 200-year-old Pennsylvania-based brewer, demanded that its much larger rival, Anheuser-Busch, stop using a tagline for its forthcoming Bud Light Next zero-carb beer, noting it closely resembled one already trademarked by Yuengling.
“Get ready for the next generation of beer,” read the Dec. 14 post from Bud Light’s Twitter account, according to a screenshot provided by Yuengling. The same graphic appeared on Bud Light’s Instagram and Facebook accounts that day, Yuengling said.
Yuengling quickly objected, pointing out its own low-carb brew — Flight, introduced in February 2020 — is marketed as the “next generation of light beer." Yuengling registered that phrase with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office more than a year ago.
The brewer poked fun at Bud Light, tweeting an image of a cartoon burglar — masked and suspended from a rope — pilfering Flight’s catchphrase. “We know imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but this is going a bit too far,” Yuengling tweeted at Bud Light.
And then Yuengling got serious, sending the St. Louis-based beer giant a cease-and-desist letter.
“Flight by Yuengling is one of our lead brands; it's one of our fastest-growing brands," Yuengling spokesperson Paul Capelli said Wednesday. “We've created this great product, and if some other light beer takes our tagline and puts it on their brand, obviously that is extremely confusing for the consumer.”
Anheuser-Busch did not issue a formal response to Yuengling, but this week, Yuengling officials saw that Bud Light had scrubbed its social media accounts of the disputed posts and replaced them with ones that teased, “Get ready for what’s next.”
“We had hoped they would do the right thing, and in the spirit of the holiday season, they gave us back what belonged to us. We say thanks and happy holidays and have a Flight on us,” Capelli quipped.
Last week wasn't the first time that Anheuser-Busch, which is owned by Belgium-based Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV, had referred to Bud Light Next as “the next generation of beer.” Andy Goeler, vice president of marketing for Bud Light, used the phrase in a September interview on CNN.
Anheuser-Busch released a statement Wednesday touting its new light beer but did not answer questions about Yuengling’s trademark claim.
Yuengling and Anheuser-Busch have tangled before. Two years ago, the beer behemoth launched an ad campaign designating Seltzer, Pennsylvania— a real-life hamlet just a few miles from Yuengling's historic brewery in Pottsville — as the “unofficial spokes-town” of Bud Light Seltzer.
Yuengling clapped back in a tweet: “Get off my lawn."
Michael Rubinkam, The Associated Press