Labatt has a right to protect its brand and image

Let me defend Labatt for a moment. A media outlet – or anyone else – cannot as a matter of law publish a photograph containing a Labatt product or logo without permission of the trademark owner, and certainly not a photo with a Labatt product being held up by an accused killer whose picture is now recognizable all over the world.

The association and brand impairment is unambiguous when you see the picture. The accused is holding up the beer bottle tilted towards to the camera, where the Labatt label is front and center and unmistakeable. Labatt would be fully within its rights to seek an immediate injunction enjoining further publication of the photo and suing for monetary damages to its brand. I am surprised it has not done so already.

Labatt – and any other company – has the absolute right to protect the unauthorized publication of its trademark brand and image. For beer companies in particular, they spend millions of dollars in advertising and marketing. In the age of social media, where hashtags are a click away, satire and humor does not excuse the original impairment. The original publication could have been cropped or blurred out without the Labatt product appearing, or another photo could have been used. The fact is the beer, with the bright blue color and label, made the photo immediately more recognizable and viewed. It was included for this reason, with the media outlet with broad circulation trading on reputation and brand it does not own.

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