Anheuser-Busch in trademark dispute with craft brewer

Saturday, June 21, 2014 | 5:41 p.m. CDT; updated 7:19 p.m. CDT, Saturday, June 21, 2014

ST. LOUIS — Anheuser-Busch is at the center of a trademark dispute with a North Carolina craft brewer seeking to trademark its name, Natty Greene's.

Anheuser-Busch is the maker of Natural Light beer, often referred to as "Natty Light." Greensboro, North Carolina-based Natty Greene's Brewing Co. filed an application for a trademark of the phrase "Natty Greene's" with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office in August.

The beer is named for Revolutionary War general Nathanael Greene — Greensboro is among several U.S. cities and counties named after him.

"We really wanted to attach the name to the community," said Kayne Fisher, who co-founded Natty Greene's with college roommate Chris Lester.

Natty Greene's produces 17,000 barrels annually and recently started shipping to two neighboring states in addition to North Carolina — South Carolina and Virginia.

Natty Greene's successfully trademarked its beers, including Buckshot Amber Ale and Southern Pale Ale, this year.

But the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch, the North American headquarters for A-B InBev, filed an opposition Wednesday to Natty Greene's.

Anheuser-Busch introduced Natural Light beer in 1977, its first reduced-calorie light beer. A-B trademarked the phrases "Natty Light," ''Fatty Natty" and "Natty Daddy." A-B also sells Natural Ice beer.

Anheuser-Busch spokesman Adam Warrington said it's routine for companies to oppose trademark filings to protect their intellectual property. He said the company's opposition only relates to the trademark, not Natty Greene's ability to sell beer.

"A trademark opposition concerns only an applicant's right to register a mark," Warrington said in an email. "With that, Anheuser-Busch has filed a notice of opposition against the Natty Greene's Brewing Company's beer trademark application, based on our established right in NATTY-related trademarks. Natty Light is a well-known national brand that we have invested in for more than 15 years."

Fisher said he'll continue to seek the trademark, calling the A-B action a "nuisance filing."

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