The only way the Chocolate River from the classic Warner Brothers’ film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is if it were filled with chocolate beer, right? Apparently, Southern Sky Brewing Company, a brewing company from Georgia, had the exact same thoughts about the chocolate river, and brought the idea to fruition with their new “Golden Ticket” chocolate-flavored beer but ran into some problems of the Oompa Loompa variety.
Southern Sky filed a trademark application for GOLDEN TICKET in association with its beer. The brewery advertises its beer as: “Is it a chocolate milk stout or a milk chocolate stout? Golden Ticket, brewed with Swiss Miss with added natural hazelnut flavoring, is reminiscent of a chocolate hazelnut candy bar and as creamy as chocolate milk.” So, if you were shopping for beer, and read a label with the words “Golden Ticket” on a chocolate flavored beer, would you associate it with the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory film?
Warner Bros. most certainly thinks you would make the association and has filed a notice of opposition to Southern Sky’s GOLDEN TICKET trademark. Warner Bros argues that the name is being directly copied from the film, and the by purposefully making the product a chocolate milk type of beer. In summation, the trademark argument Warner Bros. is making concerns consumer confusion as to source of the beer, and that Southern Sky is attempting to pass the beer off as a product licensed or produced by Warner Bros. as part of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory merchandise. But Warner Bros. didn’t stop there and this is when it sticky. Warner Bros. accuses Southern Brewery of targeting children with the beer. Since Warner Bros. mark pertains to goods and services relating to children, they used that as firepower in their opposition. “In fact, it is applicant who is obviously using a well-known mark derived from opposer’s children’s mark to promote under age consumption of its alcoholic products,” wrote Warner Bros. Holy snozberries!!
Now, the brewery is fighting back. In a recently filed answer to the opposition, Southern Sky says the claims of consumer confusion are hogwash. Specifically, the brewery claims that the different channels of trade, being that beer is not sold to children, make confusion very unlikely. The brewery also throws in a bunch of affirmative defenses against the opposition to the application making this a good old fashioned trademark battle.
While this isn’t the first time we’ve all seen an attempt to play off on Willy Wonka in the world of beer (like how Bud Light just ran the “Golden Beer Can” special for this past Super Bowl). We will now have to wait and see how this fight turns out. “The suspense is terrible… I hope it’ll last.”