Beam’s Pucker Vodka Can Keep Using Lipstick Trademark

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By Anandashankar Mazumdar

A kiss is just a kiss, a federal district court in Nevada has ruled, allowing what it called the “cartoonish” lipstick trademark on bottles of Beam Inc.'s Pucker vodka.

At the same time, the court refused to toss a trademark registration on a more realistic-looking lipstick symbol on competitor Johnny Love vodka, meaning that both companies will keep their lipstick trademarks.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada ruled that the lipstick logos were too dissimilar to create confusion among consumers, comparing the “cartoonish” quality of the Pucker logo to what the court considered the more down-to-earth mark on Johnny Love Beverage Co. liquor bottles.

“The Beam Lips Mark is far more stylized than the JL Lips Mark, which has naturalistic features including lip creases, and the absence of color in areas where the ‘lips’ did not make full contact with the bottle,” the court said. “The Beam Lips Mark features solid lines and could never be mistaken for an actual lipstick print.”

Beam, a subsidiary of liquor giant Suntory Beverage & Food Inc., beat back a trademark infringement lawsuit based on Pucker’s lipstick mark on its bottle. The claim was brought by competitor Johnny Love.

Restaurateur Johnny Metheny began marketing Johnny Love vodka in 2003, using a logo in which the letter O in “Love” was replaced by an image of lipstick marks. Beam acquired the Pucker brand from a Dutch distiller and launched the Pucker flavored-vodka line in 2011, with a label prominently featuring a stylized image of lips.

JL Beverage, the current owner of Johnny Love vodka, sued Beam, alleging trademark infringement, and Beam countered with an attempt to cancel JL’s federal trademark registration for its lipstick mark.

The court also rejected Beam’s attempt to cancel Johnny Love’s federal trademark registration for its lipstick mark.

An explosion of artisanal distilleries and independent breweries over the past decade has flooded the market with new liquor and beer brands. The dispute between Beam and JL is the latest example of the now-frequent conflicts over brand names and logos, as producers struggle to make their products stand out in the marketplace.

Judge Miranda M. Du issued the court’s July 27 ruling following a bench trial.

Weide & Miller Ltd. represented JL Beverage Co. Andrews Kurth Kenyon LLP represented Jim Beam Brands Co., Beam Inc., and Beam Suntory Inc.

The case is JL Beverage Co. v. Beam, Inc., 2018 BL 267764, D. Nev., No. 11-417, 7/27/18.

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