South Korea’ Hite beer accused of copying logo of ‘Lite’
South Korean distillery’ expansion plans in the US could hit a snag if they’re found to have intentionally used the same font
By Park Jae-hyuk
MillerCoors has recently filed an opposition suit against HiteJinro over an application the South Korean brewery filed last year to register the new logo for Hite lager as a trademark in the U.S., according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Sunday.
The U.S. brewing giant has accused the Korean firm of copying the Miller Lite logo.
If the USPTO rules in favour of MillerCoors, HiteJinro will face a setback in its expansion in the U.S. market and will pay a significant amount of money for the damages the U.S. brewery claims.
HiteJinro has already spent a huge amount of money hiring attorneys for registering the logo, according to industry officials.
The Korean firm, which filed with the USPTO an intent-to-use application on February 14 last year, was about to register the logo for Hite as a U.S. trademark, because the trademark office published the trademark in its official gazette on January 9 this year.
The USPTO planned to approve the registration, if there was no objection by May 9.
However, MillerCoors filed an opposition suit that day, saying, “The word Hite in the logo is stylised in a Germanic font that is nearly identical to that of MillerCoors’ Lite.”
“The applicant and MillerCoors operate in the same channels of trade, and the applicant seeks to register the Hite stylised logo for use in connection with goods identical to those with which MillerCoors uses its Lite stylized logo,” the U.S. firm said in the notice of opposition.
“Consumers familiar with the MillerCoors’ Lite stylized logo, who encounter the applicant’s Hite stylized logo are likely to be confused or deceived as to the source of the applicant’s goods and are likely to mistakenly believe that the applicant’s use of the Hite stylized logo is authorised by or affiliated with MillerCoors, all to the detriment of MillerCoors, the trade, and the public.”
MillerCoors also said HiteJinro has a history of adopting beer labels and packaging designs that track the label and packaging designs of Miller Lite, arguing the previous generation of Hite packaging looked similar to the last style of Miller Lite packaging.
HiteJinro has denied the U.S. firm’s arguments, regarding the opposition as an attempt to hinder the Korean firm from extending its share in the U.S. market.
Since it opened a logistics centre near Los Angeles last December, the company has targeted a wider variety of consumers, beyond those having Korean origins.
The USPTO requested HiteJinro file a response by June 18.
According to U.S. authorities, the two parties should undergo a discovery process beginning July 18 this year to Jan. 14 next year to discuss the basis of their claims, the possibility of prompt settlement, arrangements for information and the introduction of evidence at trial.
The request for an oral hearing is due on November 20 next year, so the two breweries may wait more than a couple of years for the trademark office’s ruling.