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Miller to Drop Legal Challenge Against Anheuser-Busch

MILWAUKEE -- Miller Brewing Co. said sales for its Miller Lite brand continued to rise through the Memorial Day weekend, leading the brewer to drop a legal challenge against rival Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc., reported the Milwaukee-based Business Journal.

Miller said it would not seek a preliminary court injunction to stop Anheuser-Busch from running ads attacking Miller Lite as the "Queen of Carbs," one element of the St. Louis-based brewer's "Unleash the Dawgs" campaign against Miller. Anheuser-Busch's campaign also said Miller was "not American," given its 2002 acquisition by South African Breweries plc.

ACNielsen research showed a 17.6-percent increase in Miller Lite supermarket case volume over the two-week Memorial Day period ended June 5. Given rising sales of Miller Lite and recent market research, Miller characterized the court battle as an "unnecessary distraction." A hearing on the "Queen of Carbs" element was slated for June 29.

"We asked for an injunction when we first saw the ads," said Mike Jones, senior vice president-general counsel for Miller. "But everything we've been seeing so far indicates that the damage being done is probably to Bud."

Anheuser-Busch's ad campaign, Miller claims, was launched in response to a 13.2-percent rise in volume of Miller Lite over the last six months. Over the same period, Miller said volumes of Anheuser-Busch's Bud Light brand dipped 0.8 percent, citing supermarket research from ACNielsen.

Judge Lynn Adelman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in Milwaukee issued a preliminary injunction May 28 ordering Anheuser-Busch to withdraw ads that claimed that Miller is "owned by South African Breweries." Miller's current owner is SABMiller plc, London, a company created by the 2002 buyout of Miller by South African Breweries. Adelman allowed Anheuser-Busch to continue to say that Miller was bought by South African Breweries in its ads.

Miller will continue to seek a permanent injunction against Anheuser-Busch to stop the ownership attacks in advertisements. A hearing date has not been set.
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