The prospect of Lucasfilm suing a small New York-based brewpub over potential marketplace confusion sounds like a joke, but it’s not: The Disney subsidiary has filed a notice of opposition against Syracuse’s Empire Brewing Co. over its attempts to trademark the name of one of its beers.
Admittedly, the name is a little cheeky — it’s a bock lager called “Strikes Bock,” which means that it is, technically, Empire’s Strikes Bock. That explains why Lucasfilm is opposing the brewery’s attempt to trademark the name ahead of a planned expansion that will see its beers sold in other bars, restaurants and stores.
After establishing that The Empire Strikes Back is a title owned by Lucasfilm and firmly recognized as such by the public, the notice of opposition suggests that the name’s similarity to that of the second Star Wars movie might serve to confuse customers looking to drink some alcohol inspired by events in a galaxy far, far away.
“Applicant’s EMPIRE STRIKES BOCK mark is virtually identical in sound, appearance, and connotation to Lucasfilm’s THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK mark, differing by only one letter in the respective last words ‘BOCK’ and ‘BACK,’ and the initial word ‘THE,’” the complaint explains. “Lucasfilm has a long history of using such marks for food and beverages, including wine. The fact that consumers have been exposed to and accustomed to seeing Lucasfilm’s STAR WARS Film Franchise marks in connection with food and beverages, including wine, increases the already existing likelihood of confusion.”
There’s only one problem — well, one problem outside the whole “Would anyone actually think ‘Strikes Bock’ is an official Star Wars product?” thing, that is. Namely, Lucasfilm’s filing gets the name of the beer wrong. “The thing is, the beer is called ‘Strikes Bock,’ not ‘Empire Strikes Bock,’ ” Empire Brewing Co. owner David Katleski told Syracuse.com. “It’s ‘Strikes Bock,’ by Empire.”
Will that be enough to make Lucasfilm drop its opposition? That’s unclear, especially considering how consistently the studio protects its intellectual property (Here is a list of the many open legal cases in which Lucasfilm is protecting its trademarks.) But Katleski is prepared to fight the matter out in court. “We’ve had this beer for seven years, and we did [apply for a trademark] because we don’t want to infringe on any other beers or anyone else’s trademarks,” he said, calling the prospect of going up against Lucasfilm “kind of a ‘big dog against small dog’ thing.”
Read Lucasfilm’s notice of opposition below.
Eriq Gardner contributed to this report.