Sony Pictures Television filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Auburn-based Knee Deep Brewing Co. over the brewer’s Breaking Bud IPA.
The TV titan is suing for trademark infringement, dilution, false designation of origin and unfair competition related to the AMC television show “Breaking Bad,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. Sony is seeking monetary damages from Knee Deep’s Breaking Bud sales as well as an injunction to pull the beer from the market.
“Rather than investing the time, effort and resources necessary to establish their own reputation and identity, Defendants have instead opted to hijack the famous brand identity associated with SPT and its BREAKING BAD show for Defendants’ own intended benefit,” the lawsuit reads. “Defendants’ unauthorized use of SPT’s trademarks and design elements threatens to erode the value of SPT’s BREAKING BAD Marks by undermining SPT’s continuing ability to attract licensees for such marks and secure compensation for the right to associate one’s products with the BREAKING BAD show."
Aside from the similar names, Knee Deep ripped the hazmat suit, desert background, RV and lettering from "Breaking Bad" posters, Sony’s lawsuit claims. The brewery, which opens at noon, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday morning.
Knee Deep CEO Jerry Moore said Sony representatives contacted him to tout their appreciation for Breaking Bud and its “call-out” to the show when the beer was first released in 2015. The two sides discussed but ultimately opted not to pursue a formal partnership, Moore said, leaving him surprised to see the lawsuit filed Tuesday.
“No one has ever thought the joke meant we were endorsed by ‘Breaking Bad,’ ” Moore wrote in an email. “We are a small brewery and I don’t appreciate the distraction, not to mention the expense of having to deal with something that should have been addressed three years ago if Sony really had an issue with it ... at the end of the day, the quality of the beer is what has made Breaking Bud popular and we should all be able to take a joke.”
Breaking Bud is Knee Deep’s best-selling beer, according to the Sacramento Business Journal, and earned the bronze medal for American IPAs at the 2016 Great American Beer Festival. By far the highest-producing brewery in the area, Knee Deep recently announced it would sell a new beer called the Sac Fly-PA at Raley Field during River Cats games this season.
“Breaking Bad” tells the story of Walter “Heisenberg” White, a high school chemistry teacher played by Bryan Cranston who morphs into a methamphetamine tycoon after being diagnosed with cancer. The show won 16 Primetime Emmy Awards during its five-season run and entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the highest-rated television series of all time 2013.
Sony released a line of Heisenberg Blue Ice Vodka — a play on the distinctive blue crystal meth Cranston’s character cooks — in 2015, two years after the show’s finale and around the same time Breaking Bud was created.
Benjy Egel: 916-321-1052, @BenjyEgel