Anheuser-Busch sued for trademark infringement

The Budweiser giant has recently got into hot water over its unauthorised use of a trademark owned by a native North American tribe. The Lumbee Tribe from North Carolina sued Anheuser-Busch for using their slogan “Heritage, Pride & Strength”  and their logo in their North Carolina shop advertisements for their Bud Light and Bud beers .

The logo owned by the tribe consists of a circle surrounded by a Lumbee Pine Cone Patchwork. The circle, symbolising the circle of life is made up of four segments that are white (for death), red (for birth), yellow (for growth) and black (for maturity). The logo as a whole represents the intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual elements that help one to form a balanced life.

According to a post written by their chairman (which was later uploaded to Facebook), the tribe, which in 1885 was finally recognized as a Native American tribe by the state of North Carolina,  found the unauthorised use of their logo by the American beverage company along with an image of a tribal dancer disrespectful. This is due to the fact that the abuse of alcohol is often linked to the culture of the Native Americans.
Having tried to unsuccessfully negotiate with the beverage company on a personal level, the tribe’s attorneys resorted to filing the lawsuit.

According to The News Observer, since the filing of the lawsuit, the  Anheuser-Busch distributor, R.A Jeffrey’s, responsible for the offending advertising has removed it. The distributor apologised for their infringement and declared that they would “not make any further use of such materials unless specifically permitted to do so by the Lumbee Tribe”. A spokeswoman for the beverages giant claimed that they had no knowledge of the campaign before its release but that “Anheuser-Busch respects the Lumbee Tribe and likewise regrets that this occurred.”  

A trademark is a worthwhile investment as it will protect your brand and allow you to enforce your trademark rights over other companies that may infringe upon your mark. In the case of the Lumbee tribe they were able to protect their heritage and reputation due to the fact that they had registered a trademark and could therefore exercise their trademark rights over the infringing company. Without a trademark they may not have been so successful.

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