- Patagonia is suing AB InBev over similarities in a beer line the brewer recently launched in Colorado called Patagonia Brewing Company, according to a complaint filing in U.S. district court reported in Fast Company. The outdoor apparel brand argues that AB InBev's product is meant to confuse consumers and take advantage of Patagonia's more than 40-year legacy. AB InBev said in a statement to Fast Company that it believes the lawsuit is "without merit."
- Patagonia alleges the labeling of the new beer is "strikingly similar" to the iconography it has used for decades, featuring the words "Patagonia" and a depiction of a mountain range behind it. Patagonia also believes AB InBev went too far in how it has marketed the product, including through salespeople at pop-ups who dressed in outerwear and gave out items like beanies and scarves carrying the beer's logo. The complaint argues these moves, collectively, signal that AB InBev "has done everything possible to make it appear as though this 'Patagonia' beer is sold by Patagonia."
- AB InBev has additionally positioned the Patagonia beer around eco-friendliness, which has long been a core element of apparel maker Patagonia's messaging and corporate mission. As noted by Fast Company, however, AB InBev has also made a concentrated push to ramp up its sustainability efforts in recent years.
Brands going to court over similarities between their products is nothing new, but litigiousness is typically inspired by more direct competitors vying to gain an edge against each other or protect their designs and trademarks. Vans, for example, filed suit against Target late last year over a pair of lace-up sneakers from the retailer that the skate company alleged cribbed too closely to its signature Old Skool model.
Patagonia taking action against AB InBev might raise eyebrows since they operate in such disparate categories. However, the outdoor apparel brand has dabbled more in brewing of late, including through a Long Root Ale it debuted three years ago and a collaborative Long Root Wit it released with the Portland-based Hopworks Urban Brewery earlier this month, per Fast Company.
As another fold in the story, Patagonia alleges that a representative from AB InBev recently reached out to its Provisions unit responsible for the Long Root Ale, along with other food and dry goods offerings from the apparel brand. The suit said that AB InBev was looking to conduct an interview in regards to a key ingredient, the Kernza grain, used in the Long Root Ale.
The news isn't the first time Patagonia has taken legal action as it tries to solidify its positioning as an "Activist Company." The brand last year sued President Trump and other members of his administration in an effort to block their plans to shrink several national monuments. The cause-driven campaign included a homepage takeover on Patagonia's main site and messages on social media reading: "The President Stole Your Land."
This is also not the first time AB InBev has recently been sued by a major marketer. Late last month, chief rival MillerCoors took the St. Louis-based company to court over Bud Light Super Bowl ads that dinged Miller beers' use of corn syrup. MillerCoors argues that the ads were intended to "frighten" consumers who don't know the difference between corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup, which is more frequently linked to obesity, and that they misappropriate the Miller and Coors trademarks.