Bud Light protects its trademark by going medieval

The beer brand’s legal team recently sent a cease-and-desist notice to a brewery that infringed on one of its popular catchphrases, but earned positive PR for the way it handled the situation.

Most organizations don’t joke around when it comes to protecting trademarks—but Anheuser-Busch says, “Dilly Dilly.”

The company recently upped the ante for creative ways to protect intellectual property when it sent Modist Brewing company a cease-and-desist letter that was decidedly medieval—and funny.

Modist made a new brew called “Dilly Dilly Mosaic Double IPA,” named after Bud Light’s viral Super Bowl commercial:

In August, Bud Light released a follow-up commercial, further pushing the phrase’s use and boosting its brand recognition—and it’s been sharing the videos and jokes via social media since then:

When asked if Anheuser-Busch was going to sue fans who have created merchandise and further spread the trademarked catchphrase, the company’s chief marketing officer, Miguel Patricio, told Business Insider: “No, no. We want everybody to ‘Dilly Dilly’ in their life, so no problem.”

There’s a difference between fan-crafted T-shirts and a competitor using your intellectual property, however. Anheuser-Busch sent the offending brewer a cease-and-desist message—and earned kudos in the process.

Instead of a plain letter, Anheuser-Busch sent a scroll, read out loud by a town crier. The document’s delivery, as seen in a Facebook post on Modist Brewery’s Facebook page, is impeccable:

In the document, Anheuser-Busch mentions its trademark in a humorous way—and then offers the infringing brewer two Super Bowl tickets:

Dear friend of the Crown, Modist Brewing Company. Congratulations on the launch of your new beer, Dilly Dilly Mosaic Double IPA! Let it be known that we believe any beer shared between friends is a fine beer indeed. And we are duly flattered by your loyal tribute. However, “Dilly Dilly” is the motto of our realm, so we humbly ask that you keep this to a limited-edition, one-time-only run. This is by order of the king. Disobedience shall be met with additional scrolls, then a formal warning, and finally, a private tour of the Pit of Misery. Please send a raven, letter or electronic mail to let us know that you agree to this request. Also, we will be in your fair citadel of Minneapolis for the Super Bowl, and would love to offer two thrones to said game for two of your finest employees to watch the festivities and enjoy a few Bud Lights. On us. Yours truthfully, Bud Light.

The Chicago Tribune reported:

According to The Growler Magazine, the owners had an idea they would be getting a message from Bud Light after they found out “Dilly Dilly” had already been trademarked as a slogan.

“But then we said, ‘Screw it, let’s see what happens.’ And that’s what happens,” Kale Anderson told the magazine.

The brewery’s lawyer, Jeff O’Brien, told the Star Tribune Friday evening that he has seen plenty of cease-and-desist letters, but nothing like this.

“There’s so many brewery names and beer names out there, and we try to resolve it short of suing each other,” O’Brien said. “They did it in a funny way and protected their mark. I thought it was a really cool way of handling it.”

After the cease-and-desist notice was shared on social media, Bud Light’s team responded in a similar manner befitting one in the “Dilly Dilly” court:

O’Brien wasn’t the only one who was impressed by the document and delivery. Several social media users praised Bud Light for its response:

Anheuser-Busch’s legal team might have taken a nod from Netflix, which also garnered positive PR for its cease-and-desist letterdelivered to an unauthorized “Stranger Things”-themed pop-up bar. The letter was written in the voice of the show’s characters—a clever move that consumers applauded.

What can PR pros take from Bud Light’s legal (but royal) treatment?

Protecting your brand is paramount, but you can do it in ways that further promote your creative ideas—the same genius that won you popularity in the first place.

Both Anheuser-Busch and Netflix allowed the offending creations to continue for a limited time, showing largesse from large corporations to small businesses who were vastly outmatched. This can show that your organization values consumer creativity and encourages engagement, while still protecting your trademarks.

Anheuser-Busch’s response also proves that even complex communications such as legalese don’t have to go the way of complicated sentences and jargon to get the point across. PR pros would do well to keep this in mind when crafting that next press release or more corporate website copy.

Topics: PR


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