Everyone knows that Homer Simpson loves beer.  During the long-running animated series The Simpsons Homer has philosophized: ”Beer. Now there’s a temporary solution.”  He’s also threatened ”I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer” and fondly concluded, ”Ah, good ol’ trustworthy beer.  My love for you will never die.”  Everyone also knows that Homer’s brew of choice is Duff Beer.

Duff Beer doesn’t actually exist, of course: it’s a fictional brand.  Simpsons creator Matt Groening has stated that he doesn’t want to license the Duff trademark for a real beer because it might encourage kids to drink.  This doesn’t mean folks haven’t tried to brew and sell Duff Beer before, though, and the attempts to cash in on the popular cartoon quaff just keep on comin’.

In the mid-90s, Australian brewery Lion Nathan sold a beer called Duff.   Although the product’s labeling made no reference to the Simpsons and did not include any of its characters (like popular brand spokesman Duffman), 20th Century Fox successfully forced Lion Nathan to discontinue production and pull the six-packs off the shelves.

Fox also prevented the sale of Duff beer in New Zealand, despite the fact the that Duff Brewery, founded by Gavin Duff, began producing its beer years prior to The Simpsons going on air.  Mr. Duff stayed in business by re-branding his brew as ”McDuff.”

Now comes Germany-based Duff Beer UG, which has applied to the European Union for permission to register an EU trademark for “Duff.”  Like the Aussie and Kiwi versions, the German brewer’s Duff is sold and packaged without reference to any Simpson characters or logos.

Although, as mentioned above, ”Duff” is only a cartoon brand, Fox nonetheless has two EU trademarks to the fictional beer.  In April, Duff Beer UG filed a lawsuit with the European Union’s general court in Luxembourg, asking it to overturn a previous decision by the EU trademark agency which had prevented the brewer from registering the “Duff” trademark in black, white, and red, the same color scheme used on the show.

Duff Beer UG is also requesting that the general court in Luxembourg wait for final rulings from a Belgian court case last year that invalidated Fox’s two European trademarks on the grounds that they were misleading since they weren’t registered for an actual beverage.

The outcome of the new lawsuits in Luxembourg are far from certain.  In 2011, UK Duff Beer Distribution began distributing ”The Legendary Duff Beer.”  Described on duffbeer.co.uk as ”a premium German pilsner that poses a crisp, light refreshing taste along with iconic packaging.”  The beer is now available to soccer hooligans in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, so far without objection from Fox. The “iconic packaging” (shown above) means a logo and lettering identical to the Springfield favorite poured at Moe’s Tavern.

It also should be noted that Duff Beer has been sold in Mexico since 2006 by enterprising brewer Rodrigo Contreras.  In addition to a Mexican trademark for ”Duff, “ Contreras has also registered the domain name DuffDeMexico.com.  Like the UK version, Contreras’ bottles and cans look exactly like the ones Homer swills from.  To date, Fox hasn’t done anything about la cerveza infringir.  Rumors that Rodrigo Contreras is, in fact, Bumblebee Man could not be confirmed by our army of crack fact-checkers.

About the Author

Jonny Balfus

I was supposed to be a rock star but, through no fault of my own, ended up an intellectual property lawyer in Los Angeles. I'm not saying that's your fault, but I'm not not saying it, if you know what I mean.

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