Monday, February 16, 2009

Obama labels

Interesting post over at Bevlog, covered in better and greater detail than I have time for. But the gist is that the TTB is really putting the hammer down on Obama-themed beverages.

The TTB generally frowns on putting anything on a label that might make it look like the Government endorses it, or uses someone's name without permission. These prohibited practices are listed for all alcoholic beverages, for example 27 CFR 4.64 for wine, and 27 CFR 5.42 for distilled spirits.

So for example Section 6 of 27 CFR 5.42 reads in part (emphasis added):

(6) A trade or brand name that is the name of any living individual of public prominence, or existing private or public organization, or is a name that is in simulation or is an abbreviation thereof, or any graphic, pictorial, or emblematic representation of any such individual or organization, if the use of such name or representation is likely to falsely lead the consumer to believe that the product has been endorsed, made, or used by, or produced for, or under the supervision of, or in accordance with the specifications of, such individual or organization: Provided, That this paragraph shall not apply to the use of the name of any person engaged in business as a distiller, rectifier, blender, or other producer, or as an importer, wholesaler, retailer, bottler, or warehouseman, of distilled spirits, nor to the use by any person of a trade or brand name that is the name of any living individual of public prominence or existing private or public organization, provided such trade or brand name was used by him or his predecessors in interest prior to August 29, 1935.

(b) Miscellaneous. (1) Labels shall not be of such design as to resemble or simulate a stamp of the U.S. Government or any State or foreign government. Labels, other than stamps authorized or required by this or any other government, shall not state or indicate that the distilled spirits are distilled, blended, made, bottled, or sold under, or in accordance with, any municipal, State, Federal, or foreign authorization, law, or regulations, unless such statement is required or specifically authorized by Federal, State, municipal, or foreign law or regulations. []
So for example, Revenue Ruling 54-340 (yes that was in 1954) concerned the use of the American Flag on a distilled spirit bottle, featuring the slogan "Fight Communism!" The label was approved so long as the flag was removed, as its use was found to constitute a "stamp of the U.S. Government."

"Fight Communism!" was ok though.

Of course, there's an American Flag and then there's an American Flag. Stoudt's Brewing Co's (amazing!) American Pale Ale COLA was approved in 1998. (That's 'Certificate of Label Approval', not Pale Ale Cola which just sounds unpleasant.)

So while he was just a candidate, the use of Obama's name was iffy but so long as he didn't mind too much they let it slide. Now that he's the President they are really cracking down.

Of course, like the Stoudt's label there are dubiously legal (but apparently TTB approved) ways around this.

For example, Pittsburgh's East End Brewing made this Belgian Tripel/IPA called "Ugly American".

Remind you of anyone?

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The Twentyfirst Amendment Meets the 21st Century by Russell Hews Everett is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. The opinions expressed on this page are purely my own, and should not be taken to constitute legal representation or advice.