SAN DIEGO (CN) – A federal judge dismissed with prejudice a class action claim that MillerCoors misrepresents its Blue Moon Belgium beer as “craft beer,” finding that a “reasonable” consumer would not be misled by the advertising or pricing.
Evan Parent, a self-described “beer aficionado,” filed a class action in Superior Court in April 2015. He claimed MillerCoors intentionally misleads consumers about Blue Moon beer, marketed under the auspices of Blue Moon Brewing Co., to piggyback on the popularity of the burgeoning craft beer market.
Parent says Blue Moon cannot be classified as a craft beer because MillerCoors is not a “small, independent and traditional” craft brewery as defined by the Brewers Association, a trade organization for American craft brewers.
Other requirements include a 6 million barrel per year production cap and a noncraft-brewer ownership interest of less than 25 percent.
Parent said MillerCoors produces 76 million barrels of beer per year, yet stocks Blue Moon with other craft beers in retail stores so it can charge “up to 50 percent more for Blue Moon” based on its bogus craft-beer status. He also challenged the company’s use of the registered trademark “Artfully Crafted” on Blue Moon labeling and ads.
He sought damages for deceptive trade, consumer law violations, false advertising law, and unfair competition.
MillerCoors removed the case to Federal Court under the Class Action Fairness Act and filed a motion to dismiss in June 2015, for failure to state a claim.
It claims that its use of its trademarked Blue Moon Brewing Co. trade name falls within California’s “safe harbor” and that “no reasonable consumer” could have been misled by its “craft beer” and “Artfully Crafted” representations because there is no standard definition of “craft beer.”
U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel agreed in an Oct. 26, 2015 ruling. Curiel found that no regulation bars MillerCoors from placing Blue Moon Brewing Co. on its label instead of MillerCoors. He granted the company’s motion to dismiss, without prejudice.
Parent filed an amended complaint in November 2015, citing three ads on the Blue Moon website and YouTube channel that he called misleading.
MillerCoors filed another motion to dismiss based on Parent’s failure to “allege an actionable” misrepresentation since “(1) a reasonable consumer would not be misled by MillerCoors’ advertising; (2) MillerCoors is not liable for third-party representations; and (3) MillerCoors’ alleged pricing of Blue Moon is not a representation.”
In dismissing with prejudice on June 16, Curiel said he “agrees with defendant that the three advertisements … constitute non-actionable puffery.”
“Plaintiff fails to point to any ‘specific and measurable claim[s], capable of being proved false or of being reasonably interpreted as a statement of objective fact’ made in the advertisements.”
Curiel also found that MillerCoors is not liable for where third-party distributors stock its products in retail stores and that its pricing of Blue Moon beer does not constitute a misrepresentation.
“The court previously found that plaintiff had failed to point to any case ‘supporting the proposition that the price of a product can constitute a representation or statement about the product,'” Curiel wrote. “Plaintiff has again failed to do so here.”
He added: “Having already given plaintiff a second opportunity to plead his case, and having found the merits lacking, the court finds that at this juncture, amendment would be futile. Accordingly, the court denies plaintiff leave to amend.”
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