When Empire Brewing Co., a brewpub in Syracuse, NY, applied to trademark the name “Empire Strikes Bock” the alarms went off at the offices of Lucasfilm’s legal staff. They promptly notified the government they were opposed to granting the mark.
From Lucasfilm’s opposition filing with the US Patent and Trademark Office you can see how hard it is to pull the wool over their eyes:
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.”
Now that you point it out, there is a resemblance….
“We named it ‘Strikes Bock’ because we thought it was a clever pun,” said Monica Palmer, Empire’s director of marketing. “We weren’t trying to infringe on anything. We were just trying to make a nice beer with a funny name.”
Empire has been selling this beer for 7 years, with no objections from Lucasfilm. On the other hand, the brewer also let years go by before trying to trademark the name. Did someone get greedy?
[Thanks to Morris Keesan for the story.]
Well.. . Lucasfilm has a point. This might confuse Ahnold.
Cue the famous response from Grove Press when they issued an ad for a book include the phrase “It’s the real thing” and Coca-Cola objected.
“I can fully understand that the public might be confused by our use of the expression, and mistake a book by a Harlem schoolteacher for a six-pack of Coca-Cola. Accordingly, we have instructed all our salesmen to notify bookstores that whenever a customer comes in and asks for a copy of Diary of a Harlem Schoolteacher they should request the sales personnel to make sure that what the customer wants is the book, rather than a Coke. This, we think, should protect your interest and in no way harm ours.”
And for years, the lawyers for hamburger land McDonald’s will seek to sue people named McDonald for trying to open a restruant using their real name. Most people throw in the towel over the prospect of being dragged to court.
Just name the beer “The Holiday Special”.
I recall the case of a family in Manitoba that ran a furniture store under the name Leon’s … which happened to be the name of the family. They had been running it for years. In fact, the opened for the first time years before the famous Leon’s Furniture Stores. The family even went so far as to trademark the name in their province. No matter. When the corporate Leon’s moved into Manitoba, they sued. The courts upheld the suit, too, reasoning that the corporation held a federal level trademark that, despite being more recent, trumped the mere provincial trademark. So there you have it… a corporation can own your name *retrospectively!* All they have to do is buy a higher court.
My guess is that if Empire withdraws their trademark application, and continues selling the beer in their pub, then the whole legal issue will go away. And the brewery will have gained some nice publicity.