Blue Moon Case Leaves Legal Definition of ‘Craft’ Beer in Limbo
What is a craft beer? As we discussed back in June, the term has always been ambiguous, defined—and even occasionally redefined—by the Brewers Association. But legally speaking, it is devoid of much meaning. Last week, a California federal judge helped reaffirm a lack of any legal definition for “craft” beer by tentatively dismissing a class action lawsuit against Blue Moon.
Back in April, plaintiff Evan Parent filed a class action suit against the MillerCoors-produced beer brand, alleging that the labeling and advertising of its products were purposefully deceitful by attempting to portray the brand as a craft beer not produced by America’s second largest brewer. Though it’s true that the name MillerCoors appears nowhere on the label and the brand’s advertising utilizes the trademarked term “Artfully Crafted,” the judge ruled that neither of these activities broke any laws.
As far as hiding Blue Moon’s relationship to MillerCoors, the judge cited the company’s Internet presence as part of his reasoning for dismissing the case. “The court cannot conclude that ‘it is probable that a significant portion of the general consuming public ... acting reasonably under the circumstances,’ could be misled by Blue Moon’s internet presence when MillerCoors ‘prominently’ displays Blue Moon on their own company website,” U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel said according to Law360.
More important for the beer community in general is that, regarding the “Artfully Crafted” trademark, the judge ruled that even if a legal definition for “craft” beer did exist, saying a beer is “artfully crafted” doesn’t make a measurable claim that can be proven false—a decision that reinforces the idea that what makes a beer “craft” is essentially indeterminate from a legal standpoint.
However, the ruling is currently described as tentative, as the judge did give the plaintiff and his legal team a chance to alter their argument. “The court does not find it impossible that the plaintiff could allege other facts as to MillerCoors’ advertising or sales practices that would support their claim that MillerCoors deceptively or misleadingly represents Blue Moon as a craft beer,” he stated.
Whether the plaintiff will artfully craft a new position remains to be seen.