Pabst Seeks Court Determination Wresting Back Control of Rheingold Brand
big money in an established brand. That
goes double for any established beer brand with a history, low price point, and
no small amount of subtle marketing. The
right combinations can result
in a scheme to mint liquid gold.
an untapped goldmine of long lost lagers.
Brands with breweries that were shut down but whose intellectual
property and capital got bought up or mothballed until some enterprising
company looking to cash in on nostalgia or a vintage, perhaps even a craft appeal,
or all of them, decides to revive the brand or expand it. (e.g.,
The recent national push by MillerCoors to bring Henry Weinhard’s to the
Rheingold Beer (or
rather, “re-enter”). Nostalgia to any
New York septuagenarian – a vintage brand with established credibility –
Rheingold was a New York staple in the 50s and 60s. The brewery and brand were shutdown in the
70s and apparently Stroh’s – PBR – acquired the intellectual property. Because in 1997, the Stroh Brewery Company
licensed the trademarks for Rheingold to the newly minted Rheingold Brewing
Company LLC. At least that’s what’s
alleged in the pleadings filed between Stroh’s successor, Pabst Brewing Company
stranger to reviving a brand), and the LLC, a Division of Drinks Americas
Beers, Inc. (A copy of the 1997 License
Agreement between Stroh’s and the LLC is attached to this Complaint.)
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the legal action, the LLC is requesting the Court enter a judgment that Pabst
hasn’t terminated the LLC’s rights to make Rheingold beer and use the
trademark. Pabst, alternatively, is seeking
a judgment that it has. And what’s at
stake? The brand “Rheingold”. The brand’s revival was not accident. It was a targeted campaign aimed at building
a brand that appealed
to the lower east side and beyond.
So whomever controls the brand, controls the rewards of the past fifteen
years of marketing, advertising, and brand revival.
legal fight is worth watching (in case the matter doesn’t just settle out of
court) because Pabst is asserting a right to terminate based on contractual
provisions in the licensing agreement that set minimum sales quotas (2000
bbl). An interpretation about the effect
of the provision could give some good guidance to brewers, distillers and vintners
looking to license their products to other regional companies by offering an
example of enforcement of a particular clause.
real beer geeks will be interested in the licensing agreement because page 2
outlines an interesting royalty payment schedule increasing from $2.00 per bbl
in 1998 to $3.00 per bbl in 2008, that many probably weren’t aware of.
Assuming the matter isn’t resolved through
settlement, this matter could provide some clarity to producers and licensees.