Trademark issue raised in connection with Denzel Washington’s ‘Flight’

If a mainstream movie uses a trademarked product as part of its storyline, but portrays that product in a negative light, can that be considered a “fair use?”

That’s the question that is hanging over a request Anheuser-Busch has made to Paramount Pictures to have the trademarked Budweiser logo edited out of digital and DVD copies of Denzel Washington’s new thriller “Flight,” which Naples residents can currently catch in theaters.

In the movie, Washington’s character is an alcoholic and drinks at inappropriate times, like when he is driving or when he is at work as an air traffic controller.

Shortly after the film was released in theaters, Budweiser issued a statement saying that it is a company that promotes responsible drinking and does not approve of irresponsible uses of its products.

What is interesting here is that Anheuser-Busch is asking that the Budweiser logo be removed, not demanding. That is because even though the Budweiser logo and name are trademarked, it’s very possible the use of Budweiser in the film falls into the fair use exception.

Other brands of alcohol used in the film, including Stolichnaya and Smirnoff vodkas, have not made similar requests to Paramount.

Paramount has not commented on Anheuser-Busch’s request.

Our office does quite a bit of work on intellectual property issues, such as trademarks. If you want to know more about trademarks generally, you could visit our Trademarks page. Hopefully, it will be a launching-off point for you as you go about the process of educating yourself.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter, “Anheuser-Busch Asks Paramount to Remove Budweiser From ‘Flight,‘” Daniel Miller, Nov. 6, 2012