Walter White’s cooking often got him into trouble. Knee Deep’s brewing isn’t a problem but a new legal battle surrounding their product marketing may sink the brewery’s most popular beer. On Tuesday, Sony Pictures filed a lawsuit against California-based Knee Deep Brewing over their Breaking Bud IPA.
The beer’s name is a nod to the award-winning television drama “Breaking Bad” and even its label art borrows from the show with its logo design, hazmat suit, RV, barrels, and desert background.
And thus, Sony is suing Knee Deep for trademark infringement, face designation of origin, and unfair competition. The company is seeking monetary damages and an injunction to prevent the brewery from using the Breaking Bud name and logo art in the future.
According to the complaint, Sony states “Simply put, rather than investing the time, effort and resources necessary to establish their own reputation and identity, Defendants have instead opted to hijack the famous brand identity associated with SPT and its BREAKING BAD show for Defendants’ own intended benefit. Defendants’ unauthorized use of SPT’s trademarks and design elements threatens to erode the value of SPT’s BREAKING BAD Marks by undermining SPT’s continuing ability to attract licensees for such marks and secure compensation for the right to associate one’s products with the BREAKING BAD show.”
The CEO for Knee Deep Brewing, Jerry Moore, said that he was contacted by Sony reps when the Breaking Bud IPA was first released back in 2015. They shared their appreciation for the beer’s “call-out” to their show and the two sides even discussed the possibility of a formal partnership. None was reached but Moore was stunned to learn of the lawsuit.
In a statement shared in email and on social media, Moore said “I’ve always been under the impression that Sony had no issue with our Breaking Bud beer. No one has ever thought the joke meant we were endorsed by Breaking Bad. We are a small brewery and I don’t appreciate the distraction, not to mention the expense of having to deal with something that should have been addressed 3 years ago if Sony really had an issue with it. At the end of the day, the quality of the beer is what has made Breaking Bud popular and we should all be able to take a joke.”
From our CEO, regarding our friends at Sony: I was surprised by the unexpected lawsuit filed against us by Sony yesterday, especially after they originally contacted us many years ago touting their appreciation of our Breaking Bud beer that made gentle fun of their show. Shortly after Breaking Bud was introduced, in early 2015, I actually received an email from a Sony representative that said, “It seems the Knee Deep team are big fans of Breaking Bad and we really appreciate the call out to our very popular show.” Soon thereafter I spoke with the Sony representative and we discussed the potential benefits of a formal partnership between Knee Deep and Sony but we ultimately decided not to pursue such a partnership because, among other things, our label has always been meant as a joke and not something seriously connected to the show. At no point, during those discussions, did Sony ever threaten to sue Knee Deep over the name of the beer. I’ve always been under the impression that Sony had no issue with our Breaking Bud beer since, after all, the Sony rep is the one who told me he “appreciate(ed) the call out to our very popular show” which is hardly what one would expect from someone who thinks they can sue you for the “call out” if you don’t pay them a licensing fee, which is what I gather they now want from us. Breaking Bud is one of our more successful beers, and I think our customers appreciate that the quirky label is a joke. No one has ever thought the joke meant we were endorsed by Breaking Bad. We are a small brewery and I don’t appreciate the distraction, not to mention the expense of having to deal with something that should have been addressed 3 years ago if Sony really had an issue with it. At the end of the day, the quality of the beer is what has made Breaking Bud popular and we should all be able to take a joke.
“Breaking Bad” was immensely popular with audiences and critics. The show received 16 Primetime Emmy Awards and entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the highest-rated television series of all time in 2013.
Comparatively, Breaking Bud is rather popular amongst craft beer drinkers. According to the Sacramento Business Journal, Breaking Bud is Knee Deep’s best-selling beer and the brewery was awarded a bronze medal for the IPA at the 2016 Great American Beer Festival.