ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico brewery that uses the Route 66 in its name is facing a faces a lawsuit from a European company that says it owns the beer sales and marketing trademark for the famed American highway.
Henry Lackey, the owner of the Route 66 Junkyard Brewery in the town of Grants, New Mexico, said this week that he is fighting the federal lawsuit filed earlier this year by Lodestar Anstalt — a company incorporated in the tiny European nation of Liechtenstein with headquarters on the Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus.
Lackey’s brewery is on Route 66 and he said in an interview with The Associated Press he does not believe a European company should have a say in how the historic U.S. highway’s name is used.
According to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, Lodestar owns the U.S. trademark for Route 66 beers in the country and the trademark for the highway’s logo-type “shield” that go on labels for beer.
Lodestar’s attorney, Warren Bleeker, said the company filed the proper trademark requirements with U.S. officials, must enforce its rights and wants Lackey to change the bar’s name.
Lackey said he was in discussions with Bleeker after receiving a cease and desist letter but cut off talks after the company sued him.
“You’re not going to punch me in the mouth and expect me to back down,” said Lackey. “Once you punch me in the mouth the fight’s on.”
In his response to the lawsuit, Lackey said Lodestar “should not be allowed to use an iconic name, ‘Route 66’ as a trademark because it contributed nothing to what makes ‘Route 66’ great to all Americans.”
Lackey said his brewery doesn’t make a beer named after Route 66 but has the name on its brewery. Its beers are named after car parts.
Other New Mexico brewers have named beers named after Route 66, and those brewers have not faced legal action, Lackey said.
“It’s just friendly competition and all in good fun,” said Lackey, who grew up around the famed highway.
Bleeker said Lodestar’s Route 66 beer is brewed in Wisconsin. It’s an IPA lager blend and sold in parts of the U.S, he said.
The beer’s website shows the Route 66 beer available in Spain, France, Slovenia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Croatia. In addition, the beer has appeared as various brewery events around the U.S.
Lodestar’s lawsuit also asks for damages and the profits from the Route 66 Junkyard Brewery. A trial has been scheduled for next year.
Decommissioned as a U.S. highway in 1985, Route 66 went through eight states, connecting tourists with friendly diners in welcoming small towns.
It was once an economic driver for small towns from Illinois to California. Nat King Cole famously sang “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66” in a 1946 hit that has been remade by countless other groups.
But the use of Route 66 dropped significantly after highways were built as part of the interstate system, forcing businesses to close and leaving others in disrepair.
Towns such as Grants are trying to remodel old restaurants and motels linked to Route 66 to revitalize local economies.
RUSSELL CONTRERAS, Associated Press