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Red Stripe wins the right to call itself Jamaican

By Katelyn Kivel | May 2, 2016

SAN DIEGO (Legal Newsline) - Reasonable consumers don’t think the beer Red Stripe is actually made in Jamaica, according to U.S. District Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz.

The lager was brewed in Jamaica beginning in 1938, but it has been brewed in Latrobe, Pa. since 2012, when owner Diageo-Guinness's predecessor decided to base production for American markets there. Though labels and secondary packaging did disclose that American-market beers were brewed in the Keystone state, the phrases “Jamaican Style” and “Taste of Jamaica” remained on labels as well.

Those phrases prompted Aaron Dumas and Eugene Buner to file a lawsuit in San Diego federal court alleging negligent and intentional misleading labeling on the part of Diageo.

The court dismissed the claim without prejudice in April, likening the idea that Jamaican lager had to be made in Jamaica to the notion that a Swiss army knife should be expected to be made in Switzerland. The nationalities, the court argued, are modifiers of lager and army knife respectively, and not statements of origin.

“The mere fact that the word 'Jamaica' and 'Jamaican' appear on the packaging is not sufficient to support a conclusion that consumers would be confused regarding the origin and ingredients of the beer,” Moskowitz wrote.

Further, even if consumers had a preconceived notion that Red Stripe was made in Jamaica, there is no legal duty for companies to counter such notions, even if they may not be accurate, he ruled. In this case, the Court was satisfied that Diageo did not mislead consumers, even if the consumers may have formed incorrect conclusions.

The dismissal of the Dumas case was, naturally, welcome by Diageo.

“We are very pleased with the Court's decision to dismiss this case based on the conclusion that no reasonable consumer would be misled,” Diageo spokesperson Zsoka McDonald told Legal Newsline. “This is an important decision against frivolous lawsuits such as this one.”

And the potential for such lawsuits is hardly limited to Red Stripe. Beck’s Beer has packaging using the phrase “Originating in Germany” and both Blue Ribbon and Harpoon hail themselves as “Belgian Style."

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