Flying Dog Brewery has filed a lawsuit under the First Amendment, alleging that the Michigan Liquor Control Commission and its individual members violated its free speech rights by prohibiting the company from selling Raging Bitch Twentieth Anniversary Belgian-Style India Pale Ale. Flying Dog Brewery, LLP v. Mich. Liquor Control Comm’n, No. n/a (U.S. Dist. Ct., W.D. Mich., filed March 25, 2011). According to the complaint, a British artist, who once worked with journalist Hunter S. Thompson, designed Flying Dog’s beer labels, including the one at issue. The defendants rejected Flying Dog’s application for a license to sell the pale ale in the state, allegedly finding “that the proposed label which includes the brand name ‘Raging Bitch’ contains such language deemed detrimental to the health, safety, or welfare of the general public.”
Claiming loss of sales and goodwill, the plaintiff alleges that its label constitutes expression protected by the First Amendment and seeks preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, an order mandating the issuance of a sales license to sell the pale ale, compensatory damages, attorney’s fees, and costs. According to a company press release, the suit has the support of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, which apparently “joined this important legal case because the issues raised have a profound impact on the right to freely engage in the marketplace.” The company refers to its label as “gonzoinspired,” and describes it as depicting “a female dog drawn in the inimitable style for which [artist Ralph] Steadman has been internationally celebrated for half a century.” See Flying Dog Brewery Press Release, March 28, 2011.