Anheuser-Busch is seeking to “obscure or remove” its Budweiser trademark from the hit movie “Flight.” The film, in which Denzel Washington plays a heroic airline pilot who also suffers from an alcohol problem, is creating Oscar buzz. However, Anheuser-Busch contends that it sends the wrong message about its products.
“We would never condone the misuse of our products, and have a long history of promoting responsible drinking and preventing drunk driving,” an Anheuser-Busch spokesman said in a statement to the Associated Press. “We have asked the studio to obscure the Budweiser trademark in current digital copies of the movie and on all subsequent adaptations of the film, including DVD, On Demand, streaming and additional prints not yet distributed to theaters.”
Although the filmmakers behind “Flight” did not obtain Anheuser-Busch’s permission to use the trademark, the Anheuser-Busch likely faces an uphill legal battle. Films are generally granted latitude when it comes to the creative use of trademarked goods, particularly when the product is relevant to the plot of the film and is unlikely to cause consumer confusion.
Should Anheuser-Busch file a trademark infringement lawsuit, the court will likely look to the precedent established in Rogers v. Grimaldi. In that case, actress Ginger Rogers alleged that the title of the documentary film Fred and Ginger falsely implied that she endorsed or starred in it. However, the court rejected the claims, finding that the use of a trademark was "not arbitrarily chosen just to exploit the publicity value of [the plaintiffs' mark] but instead ha[d] genuine relevance to the film's story."
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