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Anheuser-Busch sued over YouTube videos

| Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

ST. LOUIS — A Montana-based craft brewer is suing the world's largest beer maker, alleging that popular YouTube videos for Bud Light violate its trademarked phrase, “Hold my beer and watch this.”

Big Sky Brewing Co. filed its lawsuit against Anheuser-Busch in U.S. District Court in Missoula, Mont. The company says it has used the slogan since at least 2004 and has a trademark.

At issue are three videos on Bud Light's official YouTube site by actor John Krasinski, best known for playing Jim Halpert on NBC's The Office, and his business partner, Danny Stessen. The videos depict odd things that might happen after asking someone to hold your beer. In one, a woman celebrating her 100th birthday feigns death after asking a young man to hold her beer, then after the man and his friends leave, she high-fives and laughs with another elderly woman.

The videos debuted about a month ago and, as of Tuesday, had nearly 5 million views. The videos are only online.

Big Sky's lawsuit includes photos of cans of one of its brews, the back reading “Hold my beer and watch this.” The suit, filed on Dec. 20, seeks unspecified damages.

Neal Leathers, president of Big Sky and one of the founders, said the Missoula-based company is “engaged in negotiations with Anheuser-Busch to try and get this resolved. Until something's actually been resolved, we're just sort of taking the no-comment route.”

An Anheuser-Busch official, in an emailed statement, stood behind the videos.

“These humorous Bud Light videos explore the unexpected things that could happen when you ask someone to hold your beer,” said Rob McCarthy, vice president of Bud Light marketing. “There is no trademark use of the phrase ‘Hold my beer and watch this,' nor is there intent to create any association with Big Sky. Countless other videos and jokes use the same or similar words as a punch line or hashtag.”

InBev, of Belgium, purchased Anheuser-Busch in 2008, but the company retained St. Louis as U.S. headquarters. The company makes several top-selling beers, including Bud Light and Budweiser. Anheuser-Busch InBev commands 47.6 percent of the U.S. beer market.

Big Sky offers several craft beers with such names as “Moose Drool,” “Trout Slayer” and “Slow Elk.” The company website says it is the nation's 50th largest brewer, with sales of about 45,000 barrels of beer in 2012. Big Sky brews are sold in 24 states.

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