In a complaint filed on May 9, 2019, in Los Angeles federal court, Guns N’ Roses (GNR) accused Longmont-based brewery Oskar Blues of trademark infringement and dilution for marketing and selling a beer named “Guns ‘N’ Rosé.” The infamous rock band alleged that the brewery “intentionally trade[d] on the GNR’s goodwill, prestige, and fame” by selling Guns ‘N’ Rosé since early 2018, and purposefully leading consumers to believe the band is connected with the beer. The band sought unspecified damages.
On August 2, 2018, Oskar Blues filed an application to register the Guns N Rosé mark (Application No. 88/062,803) for beer with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). In December 2018, GNR, through their business manager, contacted Oskar Blues’ Chief Executive Officer, setting forth GNR’s claims in an alleged attempt “to resolve this dispute short of escalating the matter to counsel.” Oskar Blues rejected GNR’s claims.
Following the call with Oskar Blues’ Chief Executive Officer, on December 21, 2018, GNR sent Oskar Blues a cease-and-desist letter requesting that, among other things, the brewery cease its use of the Guns and Rosé mark and other marks confusingly similar to it, as well as abandon its application to register the Guns N Rosé mark. Oskar Blues again refused to comply with GNR’s requests, claiming “GNR does not own a trademark registration for Guns N’ Rosés for beer or any alcohol beverages. GNR has not made any use of the mark Guns N’ Rosé in connection with alcohol beverages. It thus has no rights to the mark in connection with beer or other alcohol beverages.”
On March 26, 2019, GNR commenced an opposition proceeding before the PTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB), opposing Oskar Blues’ application to register the mark GUNS N ROSE based on GNR’s senior rights to the GUNS N’ ROSES mark. On May 1, 2019, Oskar Blues filed an express abandonment of its application in the TTAB opposition proceeding, expressly abandoning its application to register the mark with prejudice. On May 7, 2019, the TTAB sustained GNR’s opposition to Oskar Blues’ application to register the trademark, entered judgment in GNR’s favor, and refused registration of the GUNS N ROSE mark. However, Oskar Blues communicated that it would continue to sell and market its Guns ‘N’ Rosé beer and other related merchandise through March 2020. This suit soon followed.
Band Versus Brewery
In its initial complaint, GNR submitted a total of seven causes of action. The band’s most persuasive arguments center on its trademark infringement and dilution claims; its first and third claims, respectively.
GNR’s first claim centered on trademark infringement. Trademark infringement is the unauthorized use of a trademark or service mark on or in connection with goods and/or services in a manner that is likely to cause confusion, deception, or mistake about the source of the goods and/or services. GNR alleged that Oskar Blues used “the Guns N’ Roses mark or marks confusingly similar,” in the sale and marketing of its Guns ‘N’ Rosé beer and did so without GNR’s permission or authorization. GNR further alleged that the manner in which Oskar Blues marketed its Guns ‘N’ Rosé beer likely caused “confusion with respect to the source and origin of [Oskar Blues’] goods” and likely deceived purchasers into believing there was a connection or partnership between GNR and Oskar Blues in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1114.
GNR’s third claims focused on trademark dilution. Trademark dilution occurs when use of a mark similar or identical to a famous mark diminishes the strength or value of the famous mark by blurring the mark’s distinctiveness or tarnishing the mark’s image by connecting it to something distasteful or objectionable. GNR began its third claim by asserting its “Guns N’ Rosés mark is famous and distinctive within the meaning of 15 U.S.C. §§ 1125(c)(1) and 1127,” specifically noting the band’s “widespread recognition by virtue of [its] remarkable success and thirty year existence.” GNR continued its claim by alleging that Oskar Blues’ “use of the Guns N’ Rose and/or Guns ‘N’ Rosé mark is likely to dilute by blurring the distinctive quality of the Guns N’ Roses mark in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1125(c).”
According to an August 12, 2019 court filing submitted by GNR’s lawyers, both parties agreed to settle in principle on July 31, 2019, and drafted a written settlement intended to dismiss the case. The case was voluntarily dismissed with prejudice on September 11, 2019. The details of the settlement were not disclosed. A quick examination of the Oskar Blues website shows a beer being sold called Rosé for Daze and not a Guns N Rosé beer.
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