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Wiley Roots Brewing Co. received a letter from Crowe and Dunlevy Attorneys and Counselors at Law, the firm that represents Sonic Corpo. and its related entities, including America’s Drive-In Brand Properties LLC, over trademark infringement including the Sonic “Double Delta Logo” and “Route 44” branding the brewery has been spoofing for their Slush series, a popular series of fruited sour beers inspired by classic drive-in slushes.
In March 2019, Wiley Roots announced that they were refreshing the graphic design for the series to include certain brand elements that may strayed from parody to infringement as part of their relaunch of the seasonal Slush series starting April 12-14, 2019. In a post on the brewery’s Facebook and Instagram, Wiley Roots announced that they were “kicking off our Summer-of-Slush with the inaugural Weekend Slush Party with the opening of the brewery’s patio, complete with on-site only variants, to-go variants, three frozen slushy machines, patio activities and a special food menu” which included mock-up photos of the new packaging.
After receiving the three-page letter, Wiley Roots issued a three paragraph response to the legal team at Crowe and Dunlevy notifying them of their decision to rebrand the beer series once again. In the response, the brewery stated that they will comply with the cease and desist letter by removing all references to their muse including likenesses to Sonic’s trademarks (including the Double Delta Logo and Route 44 marks) from their products, the website and all social media accounts.
In response to the letter, Co-owner and Headbrewer Kyle Carbaugh said: “We completely understand where they [Sonic] are coming from. What initially started off as a bit of an inside joke at the brewery gained far more momentum than we had ever anticipated. Once we saw the trending popularity of this series, we figured it would only be a matter of time before the inside joke grew beyond its means and would require rebranding. We’re still huge fans of Sonic and will continue to frequent their restaurants.”
Although the brewery hoped to use the branding as a way to communicate that the flavors were inspired by their favorite drive-in slushies, the owners understand how important trademarks and intellectual property are and they do not wish to confuse customers with similar branding. The new branding will now pay tribute to their original slushy machine that they used last year to serve Slush as a frozen beer.
By complying with the requests made in the letter, Sonic will allow the brewery to phase-out current products, including a limited number of drink tumblers and drive-in inspired stickers. Since the letter arrived before labels were printed for the relaunch of Slush, the brewery has confirmed that they will be releasing cans of Slush with the new branding, excluding all imagery identified in the letter. Starting on April 12-14, 2019 at 12 p.m., Wiley Roots will release cans of Purple Slush, Blue Slush, and Raspberry Limeade Slush with on-site only variants of Real Dill Slush, Frozen Double Cherry Limeade Slush, Frozen Slusholada, and Frozen Slusharita. They will also be releasing Local Beer, a German-Style Helles Lager, and Deck Shoes, a Mai Tai Milkshake Sour IPA during the event. To add a final touch to the release, Wiley Roots has teamed up with Wing Shack to sell corn dogs over the weekend’s release, a nod to Sonic’s famous corn dogs.
When Wiley Roots originally launched this series last year, they hoped that it would be popular, but never expected the beer to become a national hit. The owners admit that receiving a cease and desist letter from Sonic is a “big deal” and that they intend to frame the letter in the taproom, saying that: “Sonic is still one of our favorite drive-ins and we are happy that this issue was resolved amicably. We will continue to sell Slush, but with new brand imagery. Sonic is the original summer drink stop and we are thankful for their influence on this beer series.”