Sony Pictures Television, the production company behind the hit show Breaking Bad, has sued Knee Deep Brewing in the States, saying the brewing company infringes Sony's 'Breaking Bad' trade mark by using 'Breaking Bud' on its 'Breaking Bad' themed IPA.

We've all heard about the fictional story of Walter White - a high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with terminal lung cancer who turns to a life of crime with his former student to provide for his family after his death. Now, Knee Deep Brewing is alleged to have infringed Sony's registered trade mark 'Breaking Bad' by hijacking the identity of the famous Breaking Bad brand for its own benefit. 

Although there is no Breaking Bad trade mark in New Zealand, Sony could make a claim under the Fair Trading Act because the beer name arguably misleadingly associates itself with the TV show. 

That would be a good argument because even apart from the obvious similarity between Breaking Bad and Breaking Bud:

  • the first two letters in Breaking Bud are in the form of elements 'Br' and 'Bu' like Breaking Bad's 'Br and 'Ba' and also appear in a white and green background;
  • the label includes three barrels labeled "hops" in a desert with a storage truck and mountains (all references to the show); and
  • the brewery's mascot is wearing a hazmat suit like the one Walter White wears.

This type of branding might be appealing to marketers but are risky from an IP perspective - you can't just trade off somebody else's reputation because it's "clever".