We should have known a feud this bitter could only end in a lawsuit. Today, MillerCoors has filed a lawsuit against rival beer company Anheuser-Busch InBev over Super Bowl ads that claim Miller Lite and Coors Light are brewed with corn syrup. The ads touched off an ongoing tit-for-tat in which the rival companies erected billboards, took out newspaper ads, and ran promotions aimed at vilifying the other.
The suit centers on Bud Light’s “fraudulent” assertion that MillerCoors uses corn syrup to brew its beer; in the lawsuit, MillerCoors states corn syrup is only used in the process of fermenting wort into beer, and that the final beer does not contain any corn syrup (a point I also made in my analysis of the ads.) The suit also claims the Bud Light ads deliberately wanted consumers to conflate corn syrup with high fructose corn syrup, which it never uses in the brewing process. The lawsuit states that corn syrup is a “common brewing fermentation aid,” but that Anheuser-Busch InBev singled it out “for a deliberate and nefarious purpose” of confusing consumers and boosting sales of Bud Light.
MillerCoors seeks to set the record straight, force AB to end to the corn syrup-focused ads, and obtain monetary relief for damages sustained “under the false advertising and anti-dilution provisions of the Lanham Act.” The Lanham Act protects companies against false advertising providing they can prove another company made false claims about a product intended to deceive the audience, and that those claims had an effect on consumers’ decisions. They must also show injury—or loss of money—and that the goods traveled across interstate lines.
The lawsuit was filed in the western district court of Wisconsin. This story will be updated as developments unfold.