Striking ‘bock’: Empire Brewing outmaneuvers Lucasfilm trademark objection


One year ago Syracuse-based Empire Brewing Company, and its maibock-style ‘Strikes Bock’ beer, faced the resistance of the Disney empire.

With the expansion of the brewery, Empire began applying for trademarks on the names of its most popular beers, a tougher process than initially anticipated.

“It’s becoming more and more difficult. As the industry grows, more beers are coming out, more breweries are opening and more names are being locked down,” explained Tim Butler, director of brewing operations at Empire.

In the process, Empire was forced to change the names of some of its beers. The ‘Purple Haze’, a name already claimed by Abita Brewing Co., became ‘Deep Purple’. But it was a legal notice from none other that Lucasfilm that came as a total surprise to Butler and the Empire crew.

“I never thought in my wildest dreams would we ever be dealing with Lucasfilm and Disney and the Star Wars franchise,” explained Butler.

When the micro-brewery attempted to trademark its ‘Empire Strikes Bock’ name, Disney, owner of the Star Wars Franchise, threatened to crush the rebellion.

Instead of engaging in a potentially long and costly legal battle with an imperial army of lawyers, however, Empire Brewing withdrew its request. Then in a somewhat ingenious move, the brewery successfully filed for ownership of just the “Strikes Bock” name.

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