For those unaware, this happened this week: Empire Brewing is being sued by Lucasfilms for the title of their spring lager: Strikes Bock.
Now, it’s worth mentioning too that they have been brewing this for seven years now and only now decided to apply for the trademark of the name as it was only ever on tap in their brew pub. But come on, this is pretty tongue in cheek. It’s funny, but it’s pretty cheeky at the same time. How could they NOT have thought of the movie when they named this beer? And it got me thinking… There are plenty of brewers in Australia taking liberties with naming their brews too.
Holgate ‘Millenium Falcon’, admittedly brewed with Millennium and Falconers Flight hops sports on its label what is unmistakably THE millennium falcon in hop form, HogDog Beerworks Chai Fighter label is pretty much a scene from Star Wars complete with the famous TIE fighter ship and yellow lettering and last but not least: just about every brew from MoonDog Brewery, an absolute cavalcade of pop culture references going on there: Jumping the Shark (Happy Days), Chocolate Salty Balls (South Park) and the famous Black Lung (Zoolander), just to name a few…
I can see this argument from both sides: Brewers are infringing on intellectual license here at points but at the same time most brewers I know are complete and utter nerds and revel in the pop culture beast. Honestly, it is very difficult to come by any sort of media(i.e. movie, tv series, book, ect.) these days that does not have some sort of reference or just blatant rip off from what would be deemed ‘cult’ pop culture: Star Wars, Star Trek, the works of Tarantino (which by the way is nothing but homage!), Seinfeld, The Simpsons, Monty Python, the works of Tolkien…. The list goes on, and all of them have been used extensively. And unsurprisingly, those people that used these works as reference have never been pulled up about it because it has been given a slight make over: you can see where it came from, but it’s different somehow. Thats how pop culture references work.
I would go so far to argue that how could this NOT have happened? Pop culture is so deeply intrenched in to our every day lives that it would be impossible to not have beers called Rye Hard (Temple Brewing) and Hey, Juniper! (Killer Sprocket). When artistic people (brewers) are given artistic license (brewing) of course they are going to draw from what influences them most, which is most likely going to be pop culture references.
The question that keeps coming back to me is this: How far is too far? When does it make that step from homage to absolute rip off? Is Empire Brewing being a little hard done by here or was the writing on the wall? Brewers out there, have you thought about this? Has it come to your mind? I’m really interested to hear your thoughts!
It’s a slippery slope people, I wouldn’t want to be on it…