Eveready Sues: Bunny Not Funny Selling Coors

DENVER - The Eveready Battery Co. is trying to short-circuit a plan by the Adolph Coors Co. to capitalize on the Energizer bunny commercials.

Eveready filed a lawsuit in Chicago federal court against Coors yesterday, claiming the brewer's plan to air a television ad parodying the drum-beating rabbit would infringe on Eveready's rights.

Coors then countered with a suit in Denver federal court, seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent Eveready from interfering with the airing of the commercial.

Eveready said it doesn't want its Energizer bunny used to sell beer.

Coors officials said they planned to go ahead with the ad, in which actor Leslie Nielsen appears as a 5-foot-10 pink bunny hawking Coors Light.

"I regret that we have not been able to reach an agreement with Eveready. We have bent over backward to address their concerns and have offered concessions which we believe would have resulted in a win-win situation for both companies," said Peter Coors, the brewer's president and chief executive.

Coors spokesman Todd Appleman said the concessions included a proposed licensing agreement in which Coors would pay a fee to Eveready. He said officials had not yet seen a copy of the Eveready lawsuit, but he said Coors attorneys don't believe the ad is a copyright or trademark infringement.

Eveready's lawsuit, which seeks an injunction prohibiting Coors from airing the commercial, alleges the ad infringes on Eveready's

copyright and trademark rights, said Chicago attorney Steve Molo, who is representing Eveready.

"We are further distressed that the image and format we have carefully cultivated for the Energizer bunny - one of lively wholesomeness - is being used without our consent to endorse and promote a beer," said J. Patrick Mulcahy, chief executive officer of Eveready Battery Co.

The short, pink Eveready bunny was created for Energizer batteries by the advertising agency of ChiatDayMojo Inc. Eveready has spent more than $55 million in the past two years developing the bunny campaign, officials said.

When Coors recently wrote the proposed ad, company officials said their parody would compliment the Eveready campaign.

But Eveready officials weren't amused. Late last month, they asked to see a draft of the commercial, and the sides talked intermittently until yesterday in an effort to reach a compromise.

"We do not consider it an honor," Mulcahy said in a news release. "It is nothing more than an uninvited attempt by Coors to ride the coattails of our popular campaign."

Eveready, a subsidiary of Ralston Purina Co. in St. Louis, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

"We made our decision after speaking with them a final time this morning," he said. "They told us this morning they had decided to go ahead and run it."

Molo said Eveready's arguments are based on legal precedent set in a 1981 case filed by the makers of Dr. Pepper against Sambo's restaurants. In that lawsuit, the court ordered Sambo's to stop using an ad campaign that resembled the famous "Be a Pepper" ads for Dr. Pepper.