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Posted on Fri, Aug 21, 2009 : 11:30 a.m.

University of Michigan threatens legal action over maize and blue Bud Light cans

By Juliana Keeping

Update: Bud Light drops plans to offer blue and yellow cans after University of Michigan objects

The University of Michigan has threatened legal action over an Anheuser-Busch campaign peddling maize and blue Bud Light beer cans, the Wall Street Journal is reporting.

According to WSJ, the Bud Light promotion is marketed toward game day drinking, with 27 different color combinations geared toward different universities. It rolled out this month near Louisiana State University with purple-and-gold cans and Iowa State University with red-and-gold cans.

U-M lawyers have cried foul for alleged trademark infringement, insisting Anheuser-Busch not sell the maize and blue cans anywhere in Michigan.

U-M officials could not immediately be reached by today to discuss the possible legal action.



Sat, Aug 22, 2009 : 8:08 a.m.

Hmmm. Wonder if U-M is going to take legal action against the city for these blue and yellow signs:


Fri, Aug 21, 2009 : 9:57 p.m.

Umich2008 - You are right...tort reform and we can all save.

The Picker

Fri, Aug 21, 2009 : 5:10 p.m.

Just the free publicity over the controversey is enough to make it worth it! They battle for a couple of seasons, then settle. Advertising like this you just can't buy

Ann Arbor Resident

Fri, Aug 21, 2009 : 3:15 p.m.

I can't wait to see how this plays out. I am sure Budweiser also did their legal homework so they must believe they are on solid ground.

Pam Wilson

Fri, Aug 21, 2009 : 2:04 p.m.

Oh, come on! Why Not? Maize and blue are COLORS not a trademark.


Fri, Aug 21, 2009 : 1:15 p.m.

I won't be enjoining But Light; I like actual beer. If the can had 3 slashes, UM would be ok. Since AB is now Belgian, it's Westerlo colors, not UM.


Fri, Aug 21, 2009 : 12:43 p.m.

You sure can trademark a color. The Supreme Court decided that in a 1995 case (Qualitex Co. v. Jacobson Products Co., Inc., 514 U.S. 159). You just need to show that the colors have achieved some degree of association in the eyes of the consuming public. Often, it wouldn't be worth it to go after the guy who paints his bus. It's bad PR to sue a fan, and the U would have nothing to gain. Enjoining AB would be more of a calculated business move. AB is trying to increase their sales (i.e. profits) by using the recognition that the U has build up around their colors. If the U gets a court order for them to stop selling those colored cans, it might open the door to licensing talks. (or maybe the U just doesn't like Bud Light... who knows)


Fri, Aug 21, 2009 : 12:42 p.m.

UofM, Cry me a river. You have billion dollar endowment but still raised tuition in the toughest economy in decades. You should be glad to have anyone even pay attention to our colors especially the way the crimson and silver have handed you your hat for 6 years in a row.

Ed Verhamme

Fri, Aug 21, 2009 : 12:27 p.m.

You can't trademark a color, you can get a trademark on a logo. You're telling me that its infringement to sell something that's yellow and blue? Why don't they go after the guy that paints his bus or house yellow and blue? Clearly they are trying to raise their property values with those colors.. UM should get a cut.


Fri, Aug 21, 2009 : 12:10 p.m.

Umich2008 - just so you are clear, tort reform would have no bearing on this issue. The U is not asking for damages, which tort reform attempts to cap. The U is also not claiming damage because of a personal injury, which the major thrust of tort reform. This is trademark infringement. The main question is whether the U has an ownership right in their colors. This is similar to having a Bud Light can with the McDonalds "golden arches" on it. Does Anheuser-Bush have the right to use whatever corporate logo they want? Can they call it Pepsi? Granted, this isn't as clear cut as using someone else's logo, but companies get rights to colors all the time. Additionally, by issuing a statement saying that they are trying to ride on the coat-tails of the various Universities, it makes the case even easier. Tort reform has never attempted to reign in Trademark Infringement.


Fri, Aug 21, 2009 : 11:02 a.m.

That's all we need is another reason for concession prices to increase. Lack of tort reform has found a new victim.


Fri, Aug 21, 2009 : 10:54 a.m.

Bud Lite is bad beer. Maybe if it were something with flavor they would have let it slide


Fri, Aug 21, 2009 : 10:46 a.m.

@dave - please read the entire WSJ article linked above. UM is not the only school that is asking Anheuser-Busch to stop. They may be the only ones threatening legal action, for now, but they are certainly not the only university that is against this marketing campaign.


Fri, Aug 21, 2009 : 10:45 a.m.

as a UM graduate, bravo. Don't let those people profit off of our image without giving the university a cut. How about they sell those cans in Columbus to help curtail the drinking problem?