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Coors Brewing Co. v. Anheuser-Busch Co.

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
802 F. Supp. 965 (1992)


Facts

Coors Brewing Company (plaintiff) made Coors Light by producing a “high gravity” brew and then adding water. Coors made all of the high-gravity brew for Coors Light at its Colorado headquarters. Most Coors Light was made by adding Colorado water at the headquarters. However, approximately 65 to 85 percent of the Coors Light sold in the Northeast was made by transporting the high-gravity brew to Virginia, where Virginia water was added to make the final product. Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc. (defendant) produced a beer called Natural Light. Anheuser made a commercial comparing Natural Light to Coors Light. The commercial informed the public that a concentrated form of Coors Light left Colorado in a railroad car and traveled to Virginia. The commercial then stated that “local water dilutes the Rockies concentrate before it’s sent to you.” Finally, the commercial invited viewers to choose Natural Light, which left Anheuser breweries “fresh and ready to drink.” Coors sued Anheuser, claiming that the commercial falsely implied that Coors Light was not as fresh as Natural Light due to the way it was made. Coors conducted a consumer survey in which it asked consumers a series of questions after viewing the commercial. The survey first asked what the consumers recalled about the commercial and what the main theme of the commercial was. A statistically insignificant percentage of consumers responded to this question by saying that the beers were made differently. But 32 percent responded that the message was that Coors Light was diluted/watered down. The survey also asked, “[b]ased on the commercial,” whether the consumers believed that Coors Light and Natural Light were made the same way or differently. 67 percent of consumers responded to this question by saying that they thought the beers were made differently. Coors Light moved for a preliminary injunction.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Mukasey, J.)

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