Image Source: Sydney Morning Herald
A Federal Court lawsuit brought against the beer brand, Better Beer, by Victorian company Brick Lane Brewing has been dismissed.
The lawsuit was launched over the packaging of Better Beer’s zero-carb beer and lower-sugar ginger beer, with Brick Lane alleging that Better Beer had engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct. Brick Lane argued that similarities in the designs of their Sidewinder Hazy Pale low-alcohol ale and Better Beer cans could lead to confusion among consumers regarding the relationship between the products.
However, in the judgment Brick Lane Brewing Co Pty Ltd v Torquay Beverage Co Pty Ltd  FCA 66 delivered on Wednesday, 8 February 2023, Federal Court Justice Stewart dismissed the claims, stating that while there were similarities in the packaging, each design was developed independently of the other. He added that the Sidewinder range was announced five days before Better Beer, but both products had built their reputation in the market side by side, with no evidence that one had copied the other.
Misleading and Deceptive Conduct, as defined under the Australian Consumer Law, refers to any behaviour or representation made in trade or commerce that misleads or deceives, and extends to representations made to consumers regarding the nature, characteristics, suitability, or quality of goods or services, or any other matter that is likely to affect a consumer’s decision to purchase.
In this case, the court found that there was no evidence that Better Beer had made false or misleading representations to consumers.
The court also noted that the hypothetical reasonable consumer of beer must take reasonable care of their own interests, including paying attention to what they are buying in the market so as to distinguish between different products. Justice Stewart further stated that the fact that Sidewinder was announced days earlier than Better Beer did not give Brick Lane the right to stop the respondents from using their packaging or to claim damages, as it had not established any appreciable reputation for its packaging in that time.
It’s worth mentioning that Better Beer is a company co-founded by Torquay Beverage Company and social media comedians “the Inspired Unemployed” – Jack Steele and Matt Ford, who collectively have a 40% stake in the brand. The court has ordered Brick Lane to pay all three respondents’ legal costs.
In conclusion, the court’s decision reinforces the importance of brands being mindful of their packaging designs and avoiding conduct that could be misleading or deceptive to consumers. The dismissal of the lawsuit against Better Beer serves as a reminder that under the Australian Consumer Law, companies must act transparently and truthfully in their marketing and advertising efforts.
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