If Lucasfilm tries to shut down your Star Wars-themed beer over claims of copyright infringement, what do you do? Call in a stormtrooper for a response video of course!
Empire Brewing Company is a beer brewery out of Syracuse that specializes in a variety of varietals, ales, and even ciders. Among them is Empire's "Strikes Bock," described on their website as a "spring lager brewed with German malt & hops and then lagered for six weeks. Extremely clean and refreshing." But this seasonal brew ran into trouble when Empire Brewing opted to have it bottled so it could be sold in stores and restaurants. While EBC was filing for a trademark, Lucasfilm stepped in to put a stop to the spread of the years old "Strikes Bock."
Last week we gave you the key details of Lucasfilm's objections. Essentially, it boils down to this: Lucasfilm claims that "Strikes Bock" will confuse consumers who will assume it is an officially licensed Star Wars beer. The Disney subsidiary's notice of opposition explains, "The fact that consumers have been exposed to and accustomed to seeing Lucasfilm’s STAR WARS Film Franchise marks in connection with food and beverages, including wine, increases the already existing likelihood of confusion."
Empire Brewing is striking back for "Strikes Bock" with the video above, which is clever on two fronts. One: EBC, which claims the beer's official title is actually "Strikes Bock by Empire," is laying out their argument that this particular beer is meant as an homage, with no intention of causing consumer confusion. To underline their point of just being earnest fans of Star Wars, they've got a stormtrooper quietly stirring a vat in the background. Plus the vid concludes with Director of Brewing Operations Tim Butler, a seemingly silent and hairy figure, letting out a pretty dead-on Chewbacca growl. Now if only Empire Brewing Company Owner David Katleski had opted for a Han Solo costume. What a missed opportunity.
Also underscored by this bit of fan-inspired silliness is Empire Brewing Company's argument that "Strikes Bock" is intended as a parody of the popular film Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back. This is a smart legal strategy as parody is protected in the U.S. However, the Supreme Court defines parody as "the use of some elements of a prior author's composition to create a new one that, at least in part, comments on that author's works". For instance, in 2001 a parody of Gone With the Wind called The Wind Done Gone was allowed because it presented the original story from the perspective of Scarlett O'Hara's slaves, who were thrilled to be done with her. So, EBC might have to further make the case of how a beer can comment on a movie.
We'll give you more on this story as it develops.