Dispute Between Florida Brewery and Rapper Bad Bunny Reinforces the Importance of Trademark Categories

A trademark dispute is impacting the ability of a Hialeah, Florida brewery to continue selling one of its signature products. Rapper Benito Antonio Martinez Ocasio, better known by his stage name Bad Bunny, is engaged in a trademark lawsuit that alleges the Unbranded Brewing Company used the rapper’s likeness on one of their beers without authorization.

The brewery’s sponsor, Zachary Swanson, has acknowledged that the image on the beer can in question does indeed resemble Bad Bunny and has agreed to stop using the imagery. Unbranded intends to continue using the name “San Benito” for the product. Mr. Ocasio and his attorneys allege that the brewery never sought the rapper’s permission to use his name, trademark, or image, thus violating U.S. trademark law.

This whole ordeal brings the need for individuals and businesses to properly research and register their respective trademarks. In addition to filing protection for your trademark, it is also critically important to properly identify the classification(s) of that trademark. If you are looking to register a piece of intellectual property or broaden the classification of your already registered trademarks, the attorneys on the Lomnitzer Law team can provide proper guidance about trademarks in general and about how to protect your IP from similar disputes.

Seeking Trademark Protection Requires Selecting the Proper Classification

The Bad Bunny vs. Unbranded Brewing Company lawsuit is a classic example of how the complexities of trademark law can lead to conflict, even if all parties believe that they have acted within the bounds of propriety. A trademark is a form of intellectual property that identifies a specific commercial product or service. It usually consists of an image or a word that allows consumers to identify the trademark owner quickly and accurately as the source of a good or service.

In the lawsuit, Bad Bunny alleges that Unbranded has illegally used his likeness and iconography on their beer cans, website, and other merchandise in order to make a profit. Unbranded has responded that Bad Bunny never registered his likeness for trademark protection as it relates to alcoholic beverage sales.

An important factor in this particular case is the concept of trademark classes. Because multiple parties may want to use a similar mark for separate products or services, individuals and businesses seeking to register a trademark must select a class for which they are seeking protection. According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), there are 45 separate classes covering both goods and services, of which #033 is “wines and spirits,” the class at the center of this story. Choosing the right classification(s) is essential for effective trademark protection.

The USPTO also lists “coordinated classes” for certain products that could reasonably be sold by the same company – such as alcoholic drinks and “light” drinks – to better research which categories will be necessary for a trademark. Since one does not necessarily associate an entertainer’s likeness with beverages, Bad Bunny’s management team may have overlooked this class when filing for his trademarks.

Assisting Intellectual Property Holders to Obtain Protection

Obtaining trademark protection is a vital step in any business operation. Whether the company will produce a tangible good or a service use in commerce, it is essential that potential customers and other businesses be able to recognize your company’s presence through words, logos, artwork, or other icons.

A thorough and forward-thinking attorney from Lomnitzer Law could help you identify the class or classes that best apply to your intended use for the trademark. In the Bad Bunny vs. Unbranded Brewing case, it appears that Bad Bunny never applied his trademarked image to alcoholic beverage sales. This means that Unbranded Brewing may have the legal right to use those similar images for the purpose of selling its product. While the USPTO’s classes allow for some flexibility when it comes to similar images for unrelated commercial sectors, it can unfortunately leave open the possibility of one party using someone else’s idea or likeness for their own gain if the bases are not all covered.

Lomnitzer Law Can Offer Guidance

Obtaining an attorney’s help is a necessary step towards avoiding similar complications in your own business. Not only could our skilled attorneys take the lead in registering your trademark with the USPTO, but they can also address your organization’s plans for the future by protecting your IP from being used in ways which are not obvious to you at the point of filing.

Call us today to gain a reliable ally in the protection of your intellectual property.