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Judge Lifts Ban on Anheuser-Busch Ads

August 20, 1992

NEW YORK (AP) _ Coors Light can’t be ″the taste of the Rockies″ if it’s blended with water from Virginia, a federal judge said in lifting a ban on a rival’s ads making just that point.

The multimedia campaign was unveiled last month by Anheuser-Busch Cos. of St. Louis. The pointed ads hit Coors’ claim that its beer is made with only the purest Rocky Mountain spring water.

The ads say ″a concentrated form of Coors Light leaves Colorado in a tanker and travels to Virginia,″ where it is diluted with ″local water″ and bottled.

By contrast, Anheuser-Busch Natural Light ″leaves our breweries fresh and ready-to-drink,″ the ads claim.

Coors, based in Golden, Colo., called the ads false and misleading and filed a $10 million suit Aug. 7 in Manhattan federal court.

U.S. District Judge Michael Mukasey ordered the ads off the air last week while he considered the case. He lifted the ban Wednesday.

Coors concedes it built a packaging plant in Virginia in 1985 as part of its nationwide expansion. At least 65 percent of the Coors Light sold today in the Northeast is bottled in that plant.

Anheuser-Busch concedes it uses the same concentrate method in bottling its beer. But it says Anheuser-Busch beer is fresher because it doesn’t ship the concentrate cross-country in railroad tankers.

The judge declined to offer his opinion on that debate.

But he said Coors failed to show the ads were literally false. He also discounted a consumer survey conducted by Coors to prove the ads were misleading.

Moreover, the judge said, Coors cannot argue there is no difference between Colorado Coors and Virginia Coors.

″After having advertised for years that Coors beers tasted better than other beers because Coors beers are made from Rocky Mountain water, Coors now cannot seek (a court order) that would prohibit Anheuser-Busch’s hoisting Coors by its own petard,″ Mukasey wrote.

Coors attorney Daniel J. Kornstein said the company would consider an appeal.

Anheuser-Busch lawyer Richard Lehv said he did not know when the ads would begin running again.

The decision is a blow for Coors, which has had some success in recent years in cracking Anheuser-Busch’s domination of the country’s beer market.

Coors, once available only in the West, now has about 10 percent of the market nationwide. Coors Light accounts for 63 percent of that business, according to Beer Marketer’s Insights, an industry newsletter.

Anheuser-Busch, the world’s largest brewer, controls about 44 percent of the U.S. beer market.

Coors Light and Bud Light - another Anheuser-Busch product - are locked in a fight for the third most popular beer, according to sales figures.

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