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Modelo Put on IP Chief on Corona Hard Seltzer Constellation Puts On Merriman Claiming OKed

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Maxwell book

SDNY COURTHOUSE, March 9 – Modelo's lawsuit against Constellation for using its Corona mark on Corona Hard Seltzer had opening arguments in March 1, 2023. Inner City Press was there.  

 Modelo's counsel put two glasses of beer, and one of the seltzer he called "sugar water," on a white fold up table in front of the jurors.  On the screen he put the licensing agreement with its savings clause. "With two lawyers on the jury," he said, "you'll know what a savings clause is."

   He also showed slides of a duck and an airplane, saying that one is not a "version" of the other; he said anyone would protest if served chicken as Peking Duck.

   U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Louis A. Kaplan, who also has the US v. Bankman-Fried case among others, studied the slides along with the jurors. 

  The relatively short history of hard seltzer was the topic of another slide: from Spiked Seltzer to Truly then the peak (or trough) of White Claw. (Former SDNY US Attorney Geoffrey Berman in his book "Holding the Line" mocks the White Claws drunk by younger AUSAs; review here.)

 Modelo's counsel said, You will hear from Constellation's chief legal officer, he's here in the courtroom, there in the back with the open collar.  

  Yes, he will be heard from. 

More with analysis on Substack here

On March 2, Modelo put on the stand a witness about the conglomerate's move to globalize its brands including Stella and Corona with its image of tropical vacation. Then a brewing expert about filtering. Constellation offered an objection to admission of its Fernando Aquire's statement that Beta Bio 45 has no flavor. Objection overruled. There was talk of "mouthfeel."

On March 6, Modelo put on its intellectual property chief, who moved from Mexico City to St. Louis. He said at first he thought that Constellation's Corona Hard Seltzer might be a "Big B Beer," that is, a malt beverage. But then he found it was sugar cane, and outside of the license. Constellation's lawyer's repeated objection were overruled.

On March 7, Constellation wrote to Judge Kaplan to put its witness Michael Lurie on the stand - but redacted what it is he would testify about.

On March 9, Constellation's Lonette Merriman was on the stand, being asked why CBrands did not have Modelo make the trademark application for Corona Hard Selzer. She said, Because Mr. Bueno [Federico Icava] said we could do it.

An objection as to leading was sustained. Two dozens lawyer in expensive suits performed for six jurors casually dressed.

 The case is Cerveceria Modelo de Mexico, S. de R.L. de C.V. v. CB Brand Strategies, LLC et al., 21-cv-1317 (Kaplan)


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