There has been a trend of late toward “hand-crafted” goods. Advertisers, as they always do, have responded to this trend through creative marketing and, as they always do, class action lawyers have not been far behind. The alcohol industry has been a prime target; for example, Tito’s Handmade Vodka was sued recently by a plaintiff alleging that the moniker “handmade” was deceptive. Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam and Templeton Rye have also been hit with similar lawsuits. Now a case in San Diego has gone one step further and is definitely worth watching.
A San Diego man has sued Miller/Coors claiming that it deceptively markets its Blue Moon beer as a “craft” beer. While the complaint notes essentially as an afterthought that the beer is advertised as “artfully crafted,” the main focus of the complaint relates to the fact that Miller/Coors allegedly went to great lengths to hide its connection with the brand. The complaint alleges that the product is priced comparably to higher priced small batch craft beers (almost 50% higher than mass produced beers) and is placed on shelves with craft beers. In addition, the complaint alleges that Miller/Coors intentionally omits the Miller/Coors name from the product label and advertising as well as on the Blue Moon Brewing Company website. These facts, the complaint alleges demonstrate that Miller/Coors has sought to mislead consumers into believing that Blue Moon is a microbatch craft beer rather than a macrobatch product.
No doubt Miller/Coors will likely argue, among other things, that its labeling and company identification practices are fully compliant with the applicable regulations. And the case may not survive a motion to dismiss. But given the growing prevalence of D/B/As any court ruling in this case is definitely worth watching.