Home Beer Sony Suing California Brewery Over Breaking Bad-Inspired Beer

Sony Suing California Brewery Over Breaking Bad-Inspired Beer

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It’s been almost five years since Breaking Bad was on television but that hasn’t hindered the AMC show’s popularity, especially with it now available for streaming on Netflix.  For five seasons, the series received an abundance of positive feedback, so much so it’s in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most critically acclaimed television show of all-time – but with popularity comes imitation.

One California-based brewery, Knee Deep Brewing Company, is currently in legal trouble over one of its beers, named “Breaking Bud” after the popular TV show starring Bryan Cranston.  The India Pale Ale, which features similar periodic table-inspired writing from Breaking Bad as well as a cartoon of the company’s signature green hop wearing the full hazmat suit getup, as though he works for the local pest company.  Well, as you can imagine, Sony Pictures Television – the company that produced the show – is not happy with the design elements of the beer and believes Knee Deep Brewing is guilty of infringing on the trademarks.

Earlier this week, Sony announced plans to sue the brewery for infringement, dilution, false designation of origin and unfair competition, citing that the copying is gratuitous and designed to avoid creating a uniquely individual brand.  There are several other claims involved as well but the main focus of it all is the demand for Knee Deep to stop using “Breaking Bud” and the current design and logo.

“Simply put, rather than investing the time, effort and resources necessary to establish their own reputation and identity, Defendants have instead opted to hijack the famous brand identity associated with SPT and its Breaking Bad show for Defendants’ own intended benefit,” attorney Jean-Paul Jassy wrote in the complaint, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “Defendants’ unauthorized use of SPT’s trademarks and design elements threatens to erode the value of SPT’s Breaking Bad Marks by undermining SPT’s continuing ability to attract licensees for such marks and secure compensation for the right to associate one’s products with the Breaking Bad show.”

Knee Deep Brewing has responded, with a statement from the CEO on its website:

“I was surprised by the unexpected lawsuit filed against us by Sony yesterday, especially after they originally contacted us many years ago touting their appreciation of our Breaking Bud beer that made gentle fun of their show.  Shortly after Breaking Bud was introduced, in early 2015, I actually received an email from a Sony representative that said, ‘It seems the Knee Deep team are big fans of Breaking Bad and we really appreciate the call out to our very popular show.’  Soon thereafter I spoke with the Sony representative and we discussed the potential benefits of a formal partnership between Knee Deep and Sony but we ultimately decided not to pursue such a partnership because, among other things, our label has always been meant as a joke and not something seriously connected to the show.  At no point, during those discussions, did Sony ever threaten to sue Knee Deep over the name of the beer.  I’ve always been under the impression that Sony had no issues without Breaking Bud beer since, after all, the Sony rep is the one who told me he ‘appreciate(ed) the call out to our very popular show’ which is hardly what one would expect from someone who thinks they can sue you for the ‘call out’ if you don’t pay them a licensing fee, which is what I gather they want from us.  Breaking Bud is one of our more successful beers, and I think our customers appreciate that the quirky label is a joke.  No one has ever thought the joke meant we were endorsed by Breaking Bad.  We are a small brewery and I don’t appreciate the distraction, not to mention the expense of having to deal with something that should have been addressed three years ago if Sony really had an issue with it.  At the end of the day, the quality of the beer is what has made Breaking Bud popular and we should all be able to take a joke.”

Well, it sounds like this could be real trouble for Knee Deep.  Better call Saul.