Lawsuit Over Bud Light Ad Dismissed
Anheuser-Busch Cos., the world’s largest brewer, said Monday that it won the dismissal of a lawsuit that claimed the company took the idea for its “Robo Bash” Bud Light television ad from a show that pits armed robots against each other.
U.S. District Judge William J. Rea in Los Angeles ruled that the Anheuser-Busch’s replication of BattleBots Inc.'s rampaging robots is fair use and not copyright infringement. BattleBots stages mechanized battles on its show, which have aired on Viacom Inc.'s Comedy Central.
Closely held BattleBots is based in Novato, Calif.
The ad “may reasonably be perceived as a parody of the BattleBots television show,” Rea wrote in his ruling, signed last week. “The commercial ridicules the BattleBots show’s attempt to present a techno-geek dominated robotic combat competition as a legitimate sport.”
In the ad, a weapon-laden robot named Inflictor is clobbered by a mini refrigerator, which lures its opponent with a bottle of Bud Light and then smashes Inflictor with a hidden hammer.
BattleBots sued in 2002 after the ad debuted during the Super Bowl. The lawsuit sought unspecified damages from St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch and its advertising agency, Chicago-based DDB Worldwide Communications Group Inc.
The fair-use doctrine allows someone other than the copyright owner to use a work without the owner’s consent. The court applies a balancing test, considering whether the disputed work adds new expression or how much of an effect it has on the value of the copyrighted work. Parodies and educational purposes are generally considered fair use.
BattleBots held its first competition in August 1999 and debuted on the cable network Comedy Central a year later. The remote-controlled robots fight their way through opponents and obstacles using saws, hammers and spikes while an audience watches and announcers deliver play-by-play commentary.
Comedy Central stopped running the show in 2002, said Greg Munson, one of the founders of BattleBots. He declined to comment on the ruling.
Shares of Anheuser-Busch rose 51 cents to $54.15 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Anheuser-Busch also makes Michelob and Busch beers.