Anheuser-Busch InBev, the owner of Budweiser and BudLight, has been sued for coopting the slogan and logo of a First Nation tribe in North Carolina, USA.
The Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina filed a federal lawsuit against Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), the world’s largest beer producer, accusing the beer giant of illegally using the tribe’s trademarked logo and its “Heritage, Pride & Strength” slogan in convenience store advertisements for Budweiser and Bud Light.
“Immoral, unethical, oppressive, unscrupulous” – are the descriptions used by the Lumber Tribe of North Carolina in the filing of the lawsuit to stop Anheuser-Busch InBev’s use of the official tribal logo and slogan in a local ad campaign.
— Bill DiNome (@billiakbar) June 15, 2016
In a statement Lumbee Tribe Chairman Harvey Godwin wrote to the tribal membership on their website:
I want to inform the tribal membership that the Lumbee Tribe did in no way authorize R.A. Jeffries, the local Budweiser distributor, to use the tribe’s logo, website information or an image of a tribal dancer in a recent beer advertisement posted at several area convenience stores.
As alcohol and drug abuse are often associated with Native American culture, the use of the Lumbee tribal brand and an image of a Native American dancer in an advertisement promoting an alcohol product is viewed as particularly offensive to Lumbee People…”
In the lawsuit, attorneys for the Lumber Tribe allege:
Defendants’ infringing uses of the LUMBEE TRIBE Marks has created a significant amount of actual confusion in the community, including in the minds of some members of the Lumbee Tribe, and in the minds of consumers who mistakenly believe that the Lumbee Tribe has given Defendants permission to use the LUMBEE TRIBE Marks in a way that many members of the tribe find offensive because alcohol abuse is often associated with Native American culture.”
The Lumbees have approximately 55,000 enrolled members and have been recognized by the state of North Caroline since 1885.
The lawsuit contends that irreparable damage was caused to the tribe by the distributor using the banners.
Following the lawsuit, Lisa Derus, a spokeswoman for AB InBev, issued an apology and a statement on behalf of R.A. Jeffreys, saying the store had since removed the offending materials that contained the Lumbee logo and slogan.