The HBO show “Game of Thrones” is a popular show for nerds and non-nerds alike. And if you also happen to be a beer nerd, Brewery Ommegang has been making a series of Game of Thrones-inspired beers in a collaboration with HBO. This is just another example of a trend of breweries, wineries, and distilleries partnering with movies, television shows, and celebrity status for co-branding opportunities. We saw similar partnerships with wine and Fifty Shades of Gray, and certainly there’s a plethora of celebrity-owned wines, beers, and liquors. It’s seemingly worked out well for Ommegang since they’re on to their fifth collaboration with HBO and apparently the beers consistently sell out.
In this episode of the brewing series, Ommegang is selling a THREE-EYED RAVEN dark saison ale, named after the mysterious, recurring bird that has often appeared in Bran’s dreams. HBO filed an intent-to-use based trademark application for the THREE-EYED RAVEN mark for, among other goods, “alcoholic beverages, namely, beer, ale, lager, stout, porter and shandy.”
After being published for opposition, HBO’s application was recently opposed by Franciscan Vineyards, Inc. over its RAVENSWOOD brand based on a likelihood of confusion between its marks and THREE-EYED RAVEN. They also own a registration for RAVENS based on the separation of the mark on the bottle. In addition, they argue similarities based on their logo featuring three ravens in a circle (incidentally having three eyes total).
Franciscan Vineyards, Inc. may be hedging its bets on the impact of the BLACKHAWK decision by the TTAB, which maintained a refusal to register BLACKHAWK on wine in view of a BLACK HAWK STOUT on beer citing the similarities of the marks and the relatedness of the goods. Marks must be considered in their entireties when analyzing the marks for a likelihood of confusion. In the BLACKHAWK decision, the applied-for mark was wholly incorporated into the registrant’s BLACK HAWK STOUT mark. Had the owner filed for BLACKHAWK WINERY instead, the result may have been different.
In this case with HBO, the applied-for mark THREE-EYED RAVEN is not so similar to the registered marks as in the BLACKHAWK case. It is not wholly incorporated into the registrant’s mark and the two arguably create different commercial impressions. The sticking point, however, is the Trademark Office’s persistent application of its recent conclusory position that wine is related to beer is related to any distilled spirit.
Who do you think is going to win this one? And, as these liquor battles proliferate within the Trademark Office, should the bar be heightened for companies to establish relatedness of its wine/beer/spirits to the applicant’s product in order to act against them?
And, if you don’t want to opine substantively, who would you like to see collaborate with a brewery, winery, or distillery like HBO has here? I could easily be persuaded to buy a Transformers line of beer, some Scandal wine, or a Boondock Saints Irish whisky.