Seventh Circuit Rules Against Molson Coors in Beer Rival Litigation

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion in the case of Molson Coors Beverage Co. (“Molson Coors”) v. Anheuser-Busch Companies, LLC (“Anheuser-Busch”) which was originally filed in United District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.

The basic issue is whether “the true statement ‘their [Molson Coors] beer is made using corn syrup and ours [Anheuser-Busch] isn’t’ wrongly implies that ‘their beer contains corn syrup.’” While the ingredient lists for both Miller Lite and Coors Light include “Corn Syrup (Dextrose),” Molson Coors argues that a list of “ingredients” is different from what is contained in the finished product. To support its argument, Molson Coors relies on the fact alcohol is omitted from the ingredients list, but is included in the final product.

However, the Court found that by using the word “ingredient” “with multiple potential meanings, Molson Coors brought this problem on itself.” The Court held “it is not ‘false or misleading’ (§1125(a)(1)) for a seller to say or imply, of a business rival, something that the rival says about itself.” Essentially, litigation is not a substitute for competition in the market and if Molson Coors does not like Anheuser-Busch’s ads, it can fight back with its own advertisements.

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