The Empire Strikes Bock

Per The Hollywood Reporter, Lucasfilm filed an opposition last week against a pending U.S. trademark application for the mark EMPIRE STRIKES BOCK, owned by the Empire Brewing Company of Syracuse, New York.  The EMPIRE STRIKES BOCK mark has been used by the Empire Brewing Company as a brand name for one of its lagers since 2004, but apparently has only recently come to the attention of Lucasfilm.  Lucasfilm alleges in its Notice of Opposition that the EMPIRE STRIKES BOCK mark for beer is confusingly similar to and dilutes the well-known THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK mark, part of the Star Wars film franchise which has been extensively licensed for a wide variety of products, including alcoholic beverages.

The week before the opposition was filed, the Empire Brewing Company filed a trademark application covering only the STRIKES BOCK portion of the mark, and the lager currently appears on the company’s website under the STRIKES BOCK name rather than the longer EMPIRE STRIKES BOCK name.  Interestingly, the STRIKES BOCK application indicates that the mark has been used in its STRIKES BOCK form since 2004, the same date of first use listed in the EMPIRE STRIKES BOCK application.  It is unclear from the record whether the EMPIRE STRIKES BOCK mark, the simpler STRIKES BOCK mark, or both, have actually been used with the lager over the past decade.  If the company can establish that the mark has been used in the STRIKES BOCK form the entire time, then it may have the option of simply abandoning the pending EMPIRE STRIKES BOCK application and sticking with the simpler STRIKES BOCK mark.  Without the word EMPIRE, the STRIKES BOCK mark may have a greater chance of surviving a potential future opposition by Lucasfilm.  The STRIKES BOCK application thus may have been filed as a strategic, preemptive move on the Empire Brewing Company’s part to retain the brand equity it has built up over the past ten years.  It will be interesting to see how the saga unfolds (although if Lucasfilm resorts to using the force, all bets are off).  Read the full article here, and Lucasfilm’s Notice of Opposition here.

 By Vox Efx (https://www.flickr.com/photos/vox_efx/2559311106/) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

By Vox Efx (https://www.flickr.com/photos/vox_efx/2559311106/) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Reposted from The Hollywood Reporter.