Artist sues Yuengling for allegedly stealing Oktoberfest packaging design (UPDATED)

New Jersey graphic designer Adam D’Addario filed a federal copyright infringement suit this week against D.G. Yuengling & Son Inc., alleging the Pottsville brewery never paid him for his work on its Oktoberfest beer labels and packaging.

“He developed himself the Oktoberfest labels, proposed them and provided them to Yuengling,” D’Addario’s lawyer John Crossan of Crossan Intellectual Property Law said this afternoon. “Rather than accepting and paying him for it and going on with the carton and the labels for the six packs and 12 packs and 24 packs, they severed relations with him and redesigned the label just by curving the Oktoberfest band.”

D’Addario worked for Yuengling as a freelancer since he was hired over 20 years ago to help modernize its brand identity as it attempted to expand distribution. It has since become the largest American-owned beer maker in the world.

The Voorhees-based designer allegedly submitted the Oktoberfest design in October 2010 to a favorable reception from Yuengling’s marketing team. Soon after, their relationship suddenly soured. “He got cut off when he trained an in-house person to do graphic design,” Crossan said.

D’Addario’s proposed designs

D’Addario claims he asked to be compensated for the work repeatedly through email, voicemail and written letters. “They wouldn’t pay him, they simply declined,” Crossan said. “He tried for over a year to get someone to pay – for over a year for the Oktoberfest label design – and they just wouldn’t do it.”

According to the complaint, president and owner Richard Yuengling instructed employees to refuse to pay D’Addario and even barred them from mentioning the designer’s dispute.

The last straw came when D’Addario recently saw on a website that Yuengling planned to use a slightly-altered version of his design on $14 million worth of kegs and cases set to ship next month, allegedly without payment or permission.

Yuengling’s planned Oktoberfest label.

Crossan said they’ve received no response since filing the suit. “We’ve not heard anything from Yuengling at this point, despite all bad publicity they’re getting,” he said.

The beer is set to hit stores September through October. “We’re deciding now whether to file for temporary restringing order against their use of the labels on beer they may ship,” Crossan said. “We may file that as early as tomorrow. We’ve got a judge assigned and a case number fairly promptly and they’ve had notice of the suit. We sent a copy to the CEO there, since Dick Yuengling doesn’t have email.”

D’Addario is seeking:

– At least $80,000 in lost compensation for creating the design.

– An order barring Yuengling from using the design without compensation or a portion of Yuengling’s profits from beer sold with the design.

– Statutory damages of up to $150,000.

– Attorney fees and reimbursement for the cost of filing the suit.

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