28 March 2011

Flying Dog Sues Michigan For Right to Market their "Raging B*tch"

From Flying Dog's press release:

East Lansing, MI — Citing its First Amendment rights and an appalling attempt at state censorship, Flying Dog Brewery, with the support of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, filed suit in U.S. District Court on Friday to overturn the Michigan Liquor Control Commission’s ban on the sale of the company’s best-selling beer, Raging Bitch. The suit also seeks to recover damages from the loss of Flying Dog sales under the statewide ban, which the Commission issued based on its members’ personal distaste for Raging Bitch’s labeling.

The brouhaha began in September 2009, when Flying Dog Brewery applied for a license to sell Raging Bitch, the company’s 20th anniversary commemorative beer, in the state of Michigan. The Michigan Liquor Control Commission barred the sale of Raging Bitch, claiming that the beer’s label — designed by renowned British artist Ralph Steadman — is “detrimental to the public health, safety and welfare.”

Flying Dog Brewery disagrees. “Regrettably, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission and its members have taken it upon themselves to control not merely alcoholic beverages, but speech as well,” said Flying Dog Attorney Alan Gura of Washington, D.C.-based Gura & Possessky, PLLC. “The defendants arbitrarily imposed their personal tastes in banning Raging Bitch, clearly violating Flying Dog’s First Amendment right to free expression.”
Okay, let me preface this by saying that I'm a libertarian, and typically I support the right of any company to do a legal business in a manner that both the company and its customers see fit.  And I don't care for government, especially some appointed committee, presuming to know what's best for me and trying to protect me from things it finds distasteful, immoral, or fattening.

But at the same time, the folks that run Flying Dog HAD TO KNOW that this kind of thing would happen.  Don't give me all this blather about the "dog" theme.  They went out looking for trouble, and they found it.  I'm seriously of the opinion by now that this name was chosen specifically to "cause trouble" and garner the company the "free publicity" that the resulting denunciations, legal challenges, and whatnot would produce.

It's good beer.  It's fairly shrewd marketing, assuming my supposition is true.  But I'm not playing along with that game any further.  I got into craft beer in part to get away from the foul-mouthed "d-bags" at which the company seems to direct all its marketing......

More legal analysis here.

3 comments:

Matthew said...

is it really 'free publicity' if they're paying the lawyers? can't imagine that's all that cheap either...

Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

I didn't include this part:

"Alan Gottlieb, president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, said that his organization 'has joined this important legal case because the issues raised have a profound impact on the right to freely engage in the marketplace.'"

I suspect they're getting more "legal help" than just the company lawyers, who, after all, may be on retainer......

Eric Henning said...

It's a Catch-22. Disagreeing with them just creates more free publicity, more linkbacks, more Web buzz....