A federal judge in New York has blocked the Coors Brewing Company and the marketing arm of the National Football League players' union from promoting Coors Light as the "Official Beer of NFL Players" in a national campaign scheduled to begin Monday.
Coors will go ahead with the campaign, which is based on a fantasy football game, while complying with the judge's order, said Dave Taylor, a spokesman for the Colorado-based beer company.
The temporary injunction -- issued Wednesday by U.S. District Court Judge Denise L. Cote -- is the latest development in a dispute between the NFL and Players Inc. -- the marketing arm of the NFL Players Association -- over whether the union and its sponsors have the right to use the league's name in advertising campaigns.
"We're pleased with the court's decision," said Gary Gertzog, general counsel of NFL Properties Inc., the league's marketing subsidiary and a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit. "She confirmed that the NFL is a famous [trademark] that is entitled to a broad scope of protection."
Coors and Players Inc. plan to appeal Cote's decision.
"This dispute is far from over," said Doug Allen, president of Players Inc. and assistant executive director of the NFLPA. "There are many more rounds to it, one of which is the appeal of the judge's order and the trial that obviously would supersede that order if we were to win."
In a lawsuit filed on June 25, the NFL alleged that Coors's assertion that it produces the "official" beer of NFL players is "literally false" and a violation of NFL trademark rights, in part because some players do not drink beer "for religious or other personal reasons" and others "do not drink Coors Light."
Cote did not address those issues in her ruling Wednesday, focusing instead on Coors's use of the NFL trademark, according to NFL and NFLPA officials.
"In our review, the phrase `Official Beer of the NFL Players' does not suggest that every player drinks that product any more than, with respect to an official sponsor of the NFL, every club or every [team] owner uses that product," the NFLPA's Allen said.
The NFL has sponsorship agreements with Coors's primary competitors, Anheuser-Busch Companies and Miller Brewing Company.
The NFL also alleges in the lawsuit that the Coors promotion "irreparably and irretrievably damages" the economic value of the league's trademark by implying that "Coors Light has a sponsorship with the NFL when it clearly does not."