Battle of Breweries – Trademark Style

One might think that if a company is well established, its intellectual property would be de facto protected. But that is not the case. Two of America’s most iconic companies, easily recognizable and hard to confuse, are currently in a battle over trademarks. These two companies are none other than Anheuser-Busch and Yuengling, two of America’s oldest breweries. Yuengling was founded in 1829 in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, Anheuser-Busch, on the other hand was founded in the late 1850s, in St. Louis, Missouri.  But recently these two giants of the industry have been warring over trademark rights.

What do you mean by Trademark?

Before diving into the juicy details, let’s explain what a trademark is, something that identifies and distinguishes a product from others. Trademarks, while used in commerce, can protect a company’s name, slogans, and logos by preventing others from using them in commerce if doing so would cause likely confusion. The key point is while in use. Trademarks exist based on use. Registration is not required, but it does offer substantial benefits. You cannot register a mark to reserve it. Trademarks are literally use it or lose it. To ensure a mark receives full is protection, one should register the mark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Once registered, others are prevented from registering the same or a sufficiently similar mark for the same class of goods, i.e. Class 22 Light Beverages, including beer.

However, registration does not literally prevent someone from ever using a registered mark. Someone may decide to use the registered mark or one sufficiently similar, in commerce. It is the mark owner’s be on the lookout or to hire a trademark watch dog service to ensure that this does not occur. If a famous company’s mark or one sufficiently similar is being used in commerce and the company sits idly by not enforcing its right to prevent such use, the company’s trademark may cease to exist if it stops identifying a single source.  Even if it remains a valid trademark, its value could be diluted in that it loses its value in the market place.

Photo by Madeleine Morris

The Slogan Situation

In February 2020, Yuengling introduced its new low-carb beer, known as Flight, with the slogan “next generation of light beer”. Yuengling filed for federal trademark registration for this slogan on October, 25, 2019 and registered almost a year later on August 25, 2020. Then on December 14, 2022 Bud Light, a line of beer produced by Anheuser-Busch, tweeted, “Get Ready for the next generation of beer” to publicize the drop of its newest zero-carb beer, Bud Light Next.

Photo by Madeleine Morris

This was a phrase similar to Yuengling’s trademarked slogan for Flight. That similarity is an issue which could create a likelihood of confusion among consumers, which the trademark owner is legally permitted to prevent with an injunction. They may not be aware of the correct source of this new product. Is it Yuengling? Or Anheuser-Busch? Likelihood of confusion is a standard test to determine if someone is infringing, i.e., violating on a trademark. It includes such factors as the relatedness of the parties’ products and similar marketing channels. Both Yuengling and Anheuser-Busch are producing products in the exact same industry, the light beer industry, and since they are in the same industry, they target the same groups of people and have the same marketing channels, such as sporting events, bars, and similar television networks.

Yuengling, objected to Bud Light’s use of its trademarked phrase. However, instead of simply sending a cease and desist letter, Yuengling first took to twitter. There Yuengling tweeted “We know imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but this is going a bit too far” with a picture specifically referencing the year Yuengling adopted the slogan, 2020. Yuengling then went a step further. They tweeted a cartoon depiction of Bud Light Next “Stealing our tagline”. Eventually, after Yuengling issued a cease and desist letter, Anheuser-Busch removed all traces of the slogan from its social media. It replaced the stolen phrase with “Get ready for what’s next”. Yuengling won the trademark battle over the slogan, but the war was not over.

The Eagle Exploit

If the near identical slogan was not enough, on January 18, 2022, Anheuser-Busch released a new logo in part of a rebranding scheme. Once again, the logo was eerily similar to Yuengling’s, particular the designs of the eagles.

Yuengling’s logo, which is featured on all its beers, consists of a gold sketch of an eagle with its talons on a beer barrel, wings spread wide in a V-shape, and head looking to the top right over the word “Yuengling” written in black cursive with the phrase “America’s Oldest Brewery” on the bottom.

Anheuser-Busch’s logo always included an eagle, but the eagle faced the left and was multicolored. This new logo changes the eagle to also be a gold drawing. The eagle is in the same position as Yuengling’s, wings stretched into a V and head pointing to the top right, as the eagle flies through the famous Anheuser-Busch A positioned over Anheuser-Busch in cursive, black letters.


The bald eagle is the United States national bird, making it understandable that both would choose to use an eagle to depict the American nature of the beer. But what’s odd is that for years, Anheuser- Busch’s eagle was facing left, but now in its new logo it is facing right. In the video releasing the new logo, the brewery explains that the company is moving in a more forward direction, which may explain the eagle’s new direction. However, this direction change puts the logo more in line with Yuengling’s, whose eagle also faces right. Once again, Anheuser-Busch’s new mark creates a likelihood of confusion among consumers because both products are in the exact same industry and market through the same channels. The logos are similar enough for a consumer to question whether the two breweries joined forces.

In fashion with how the two beer mongers have been handling the disputes, Yuengling called Anheuser-Busch out over twitter yet again. The tweet expressed that Yuengling its flattery with a side by side comparison of the two logos and the caption “Cool new Eagle. We’re flattered”. Currently, Anheuser-Busch is continuing to use its new logo that invokes the essence of Yuengling’s. However, this fight will soon leave twitter and enter the court room if Anheuser-Busch continues with its “new” logo.

Let this dispute be a warning to all companies, no matter your size or how established your brand is, someone may try and steal it. Be on the lookout.

Madeleine Morris
Associate Blogger
Loyola University Chicago School of Law, JD 2022