Sony Sues Brewer Over "Breaking Bud" Beer

Knee Deep Brewing Breaking Bad Art - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of Knee Deep Brewing Co.

Legal trouble is brewing for a company that launched a Breaking Bad-inspired beer without a license from Sony Pictures Television. 

Sony on Tuesday sued Knee Deep Brewing, claiming the company intentionally imitated the Breaking Bad logo and other design elements in order to capitalize on the fame of the AMC hit series, which "has been ranked by the Guinness World Records as the most critically acclaimed show of all time and has been cited as one of the greatest television series in history." 

The copying is gratuitous, Sony argues, and is clearly designed to avoid the difficulty of creating a unique brand. 

"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," writes attorney Jean-Paul Jassy in the complaint. "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."

Sony is suing for trademark infringement, dilution, false designation of origin and unfair competition, among other claims, and is seeking an injunction to stop Knee Deep from using "Breaking Bud" and the current design and logo and damages. (Read the complaint below.)

Knee Deep Brewing CEO Jerry Moore on Wednesday sent The Hollywood Reporter a lengthy statement in response to the complaint, saying he thinks his customers know better than to assume an official association and Sony should be able to take a joke.

The statement is below in full. 

"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 issue with our 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 now 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 3 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."  

April 18, 5:40 p.m.: Updated with a statement from Knee Deep Brewing.