21 May 2018

It's Miller time! Trouble brews over logos

A Korean beer logo being registered in the US has been challenged by US brewing giant MillerCoors, which could take two years to resolve.

MillerCoors has filed an opposition suit against HiteJinro over an application the Korean brewery filed last year to register the new logo for Hite lager as a trademark in the US, according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The U.S. brewing giant has accused the Korean firm of copying the Miller Lite logo. If the USPTO rules in favor of MillerCoors, HiteJinro will face a setback in its expansion in the US market and will pay significant damages.

Germanic font
The Korean firm filed with the USPTO an intent-to-use application on Feb. 14 last year. When registering the logo, published in the USPTP official gazette on January 9, MillerCoors filed an opposition suit that day, saying the word Hite in the logo is stylized in a Germanic font that ‘is nearly identical to that of MillerCoors' Lite.’ The suit states the applicant and MillerCoors operate in the ‘same channels of trade’ and the applicant seeks to register a logo for identical goods to MillerCoors. The US firm claims consumers are ‘likely to be confused or deceived’ and ‘mistakenly believe’ the Hite stylized logo is authorized by or affiliated with MillerCoors.

Two year process
MillerCoors also said HiteJinro has a history of adopting beer labels and packaging designs that track the label and packaging designs of Miller Lite, arguing the previous generation of Hite packaging looked similar to the last style of Miller Lite packaging. HiteJinro denies the US firm's arguments, regarding the opposition as an attempt to hinder the Korean firm from extending its share in the US market. The USPTO has requested HiteJinro to file a response by June 18. However, the discovery process which will begin July 18 and continue year to January 14 next, and an oral hearing scheduled for Nov. 20 next year, means the two breweries may wait some two years for the trademark office's ruling.