In Cerveceria Modelo De Mex. v. CB Brand Strategies, LLC, 21-cv-1317 (LAK), (S.D.N.Y. December 13, 2022), the plaintiffs (Modelo) sublicensed to the defendants (CBI) the right to use a number of trademarks (the "Corona Marks") on certain beers. CBI then applied the Corona Marks to a new group of products marketed as "hard seltzers." Modelo took issue with the use of the marks on “hard seltzers” (as opposed to beer) and argued that CBI had breached the sublicense and was infringing Modelo's Corona Marks. It sought damages, an injunction, and other relief. Modelo brought a motion for partial summary judgment.
The motion for summary judgment was denied.
Contractual provisions governed whether “hard seltzer” constitutes “beer”
The Court noted that the case turned principally on whether the CBI hard seltzer products constituted "beer" within the meaning of the sublicense. Modelo argued that New York law ordinarily compels the interpretation of contract provisions in accordance with their plain meaning and that the dictionary definitions of “beer” excludes CBI’s hard seltzer products.
The contract was ambiguous
However, the Court held that the meaning of the sublicense as it relates to CBI’s hard seltzer products is ambiguous and is a genuine issue of fact that precludes summary judgment. The Court held that a reasonable jury could find that a “hard seltzer” is a “beer.”