Beer label designer alleges Yuengling copyright violations


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One of Pennsylvania's most famous breweries is under fire from a graphic designer who alleges that Yuengling is planning to use a label he created for its Oktoberfest beer without having paid him for it, according to a lawsuit filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Adam J. D'Addario, a third-generation freelance graphic designer from Voorhees, N.J., who specializes in beer labels and packaging, alleges the Pottsville, Pa., company ended its nearly 20-year relationship with him after it hired an in-house graphics person, but still plans to use the last label he made.

Changing the "Oktoberfest branding bar," which is a strip running below Yuengling's iconic eagle that identifies the seasonal brew, from Mr. D'Addario's proposed straight bar to a curved bar doesn't change the design enough to make it distinct, he argued in his complaint.

Mr. D'Addario alleged in the complaint that he presented his designs to the company in 2010 and, soon after, Yuengling discontinued its relationship with him.

The company never paid him for the work, he alleged in the complaint.

In a phone interview last week, Mr. D'Addario said he was perplexed by the disintegration of the relationship.

"Yuengling has always been a star account. It was a very good relationship for an awfully long time," he said, noting that he designed almost every Yuengling beer bottle label for the last two decades. "I don't know what happened, and why my relationship has ended."

He also said the modifications that Yuengling made to his proposed label design were minimal.

"What they did was modify my presentation 5 percent and think that is authorship. It isn't," he said.

Mr. D'Addario's complaint states, "As a result of failure of payment for his work, copyright rights in and to the logo designs provided by plaintiff have not passed by license, implied license or written assignment to defendant."

Shannon Mandel, an executive assistant and sales administrator for Yuengling, declined comment.

Although Mr. D'Addario sought payment from Yuengling, he was repeatedly denied, he said in the interview, explaining that a lawsuit was his last resort and saying that litigation is the longest road "between two points."

It's "sad when a long-term business relationship turns sour," said John Crossan of Crossan Intellectual Property Law in Chicago, who is representing Mr. D'Addario.

Sometimes it's cheaper to bring work in-house, Mr. Crossan said, but Yuengling doesn't own the copyright to Mr. D'Addario's work and infringing on it can be costly.

Mr. D'Addario is seeking $80,000 for lost compensation for his design and $150,000 in statutory damages for willful infringement of his copyrighted label proposal, as well as a percentage of the profit made from the use of the copyrighted material.

So far, only a beer tap label has been introduced to the market, according to the complaint, but Yuengling has plans to launch its Oktoberfest line with bottles and packaging this fall.

"Apparently they haven't bottled the beer yet," Mr. Crossan said, so Yuengling could make alternative plans for its labels.

Mr. D'Addario is also seeking an injunction to keep the company from using his work.

legalnews

Saranac Hale Spencer: sspencer@alm.com or 215-557-2449. To read more articles like this, visit www.thelegalintelligencer.com. First Published August 6, 2012 4:00 AM


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