On September 4th, federal judge William Conley of the Western District of Wisconsin issued a preliminary injunction against Anheuser-Busch, barring the brewer from using any “no corn syrup” language and icon from its Bud Light beer packaging. Again, the federal courts have found Anheuser-Busch’s use of “no corn syrup” to describe Bud Light could mislead consumers to believe that Miller Lite and Coors Light contain corn syrup in their final products.
This is the second injunction ruling stemming from a federal lawsuit filed by MillerCoors against Anheuser-Busch, arguing a recent Bud Light ad campaign intentionally deceived the public. The previous injunction ruling barred Anheuser-Busch from using similar language featured in the recent ad campaign in any future commercials, print advertising or social media. That ruling also ordered Anheuser-Busch to stop running certain TV ads, to take down certain billboards, and forced Anheuser-Busch to change portions of its website because the information was misleading. The federal court also previously denied Anheuser-Busch’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
“Today’s ruling is another victory for MillerCoors, but more importantly it is another victory for the American public against deceptive advertising like Bud Light’s,” said MillerCoors CEO Gavin Hattersley. “Bud Light’s campaign was bad for the public, bad for the industry and against the law. With this ruling, we are holding Bud Light accountable for its actions, and we will keep holding their feet to the fire every time they intentionally mislead the American public.”
At the time of the previous ruling, the federal court asked for additional written arguments from MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch before making a determination on the request to bar Bud Light from using “no corn syrup” on its packaging. After reviewing those arguments, the federal court extended the preliminary injunction to bar Anheuser-Busch from using “no corn syrup” on any future Bud Light packaging. Anheuser-Busch will be allowed to sell products using the packaging it had on hand as of June 6, 2019, or until March 2, 2020, whichever occurs first.
Notable quotes from the federal ruling (for full ruling and opinion, please reference case number: 3:19-cv-00218-wmc)
- “IT IS ORDERED that the preliminary injunction entered May 24, 2019, is MODIFIED to include the following: Defendant Anheuser Busch is PRELIMINARILY ENJOINED from using the “no corn syrup” language and icon on its packaging after it exhausts the challenged packaging on hand as of June 6, 2019, or on March 2, 2020 (270 days from June 6, 2019), whichever occurs first.” (Page 14)
- “Defendant’s (Anheuser Busch) “corn syrup” / “no corn syrup” language was part of an intentional, coordinated campaign used in both the previously enjoined advertisements and the packaging at issue in the present opinion.” (Page 10)
- “In light of the limited number of beers in the light beer market, with Bud Light, Miller Lite and Coors Light accounting for almost 100% of sales, that same jury could also find a substantial segment of consumers would infer that Bud Light’s principal competitors contain corn syrup, especially after a hundred million dollar television and print campaign misleadingly suggesting the same thing.” (Page 10)
- “While the packaging now at issue does not mention Miller Lite or Coors Light, that does not mean that it is not actionable under the Lanham Act.” (Page 9)