Perhaps amidst the COVID pandemic and the subsequent implosion of the bar industry, you forgot about the massive legal dispute between Big Beer titans AB InBev and Molson Coors. Well, the conflict—sparked when the, er, Bud Knight interrupted the Super Bowl to declare that Miller and Coors are made with corn syrup—is still going strong.
Despite a recent court ruling that Bud did not commit false advertising, Molson Coors this week asked a different judge for an injunction to halt the popular ad campaign.
A quick primer if you haven’t been paying attention. Last year, Bud launched an ad campaign that employed a series of medieval characters and tropes who mocked the “kingdoms” of Miller and Coors for utilizing corn syrup as an ingredient in their beers. Molson Coors, the recently renamed parent company of Miller and Molson, lost their mind over the campaign.
The Molson Coors people countered, claiming that their beer did not actually contain corn syrup. They argued that that corn syrup was only used as an agent to feed yeast within Miller and Coors. By the end of the brewing process, there was no yeast remaining. Therefore, Bud was committing false advertising in violation of something called the Lanham Act—at leas thats what Molson Coors argued in a series of court filings.
In May, it looked like the affair was over. The Seventh Circuit ruled that Budweiser did not commit false advertising. In fact, Miller and Coors both list corn syrup as an ingredient and the beers “brought this problem on itself” according to the ruling. (So, Bud may not say the syrup is “in” the beer, but can continue saying the the beer is “brewed with” corn syrup.) The judges suggested that the best retaliation for Molson Coors was simply to “mock Bud Light in return.”
Molson Coors did not like that suggestion. Instead they updated their website with a statement. “Like many brewers, we use an adjunct to aide in the fermentation process. For example, Miller Lite and Coors Light use corn syrup. Bud Light uses rice. Regardless of what source is used to aide fermentation, rice or corn syrup, it gets consumed by the yeast in the brewing process. So it’s not in the final product. But not a single product here at Molson Coors ever uses high fructose corn syrup, while a number of Anheuser-Busch products do.”
Oh yeah, Molson Coors also filed a request for a permanent injunction with .U.S. District Judge William M. Conley on July 3. After the judge asked both parties whether there is ned to continue given the recent decision Molson Coors responded with a resounding yes.
“The Seventh Circuit’s ruling does not address what happens when one of the ‘rival[s]’ changes or clarifies its message,” Molson’s lawyers wrote. “But that silence should not be read as approbation of perpetuating deception. Such a reading would run contrary to the Lanham Act.”
“Under AB’s reading of the ruling, rivals could uncover long-since changed or corrected historical statements and then wield them against their competitors, deceiving consumers about the present-day situation.”
Budweiser, for their part filed a response on July 10. Not surprisingly, they argued that there is no need for an injunction. However, Bud Knights probably are not too upset. The legal battle has only served to drive up more PR for their corny campaign.