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NC’s Lumbee Tribe Sues Anheuser-Busch And Local Distributor For Trademark Infringement

A picture of a gavel on a table.
Joe Gratz
Flickr Creative Commons
The Lumbee Tribe is suing the brewer and a local distributor of Budweiser beer.

A local distributor of Anheuser-Busch products has pulled unauthorized ads using the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina's logo.  Now the tribe is suing the brewer and wholesaler.

Beer distributor R.A. Jeffreys has removed store signage promoting Budweiser beer using the Lumbee tribe's four-color circular "Heritage, Pride & Strength" logo and slogan.

In a statement, R.A. Jeffreys said the ads were intended "to honor the rich heritage of the Lumbee Tribe."

R.A. Jeffreys said the company developed these advertising materials without the involvement, input or knowledge of Anheuser-Busch. 

R.A. Jeffreys was informed through a June 9, 2016 telephone call that the Lumbee Tribe objected to the use of these materials, and by June 10, 2016 removed all of the materials in question, the company said in a statement.

"R.A. Jeffreys regrets any offense that may have been taken to the use of the materials in which the Lumbee Tribe claims an interest, and R.A. Jeffreys will not make any further use of such materials unless specifically permitted to do so by the Lumbee Tribe," the company said.

Anheuser-Busch has distanced itself from the incident and said "the wholesaler responsible for these signs removed them shortly after a complaint was brought to its attention, and has since expressed its regrets. Anheuser-Busch respects the Lumbee Tribe and likewise regrets that this occurred."

The Lumbee Tribe filed a federal lawsuit against both companies and released a statement of its own this week.

"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," Tribal Chairman Harvey Godwin said.

The tribe and the companies declined further comment, pending legal action.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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