Duck shirt case may turn on beer precedent

July 22, 1992|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Staff Writer

Jurors passed around a can of Bud in a federal courtroom yesterday.

No, they didn't get to chug the brew. The can of beer was evidence in the quirky courtroom battle between the maker of M. R. Ducks shirts and another T-shirt company it says is ripping off its products.

The jurors examined the cans to see why, in a different case, a South Carolina jury did not think a T-shirt distributor did anything wrong by making fun of Budweiser's "King of Beers" slogan.

Both sides in the M. R. Ducks dispute are trying to convince the U.S. District Court jury here that the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals supported their position in a precedent-setting case involving the Anheuser-Busch Co., which makes Budweiser.

The appellate court ruled in April that the T-shirt distributor did not infringe on Anheuser's trademark by promoting Myrtle Beach, S.C., with T-shirts bearing Bud's emblem and the message "The King of Beaches."

Layton & Associates, of Arbutus, argued before Judge Benson E. Leggthat its "M. R. Not Ducks -- M. R. Decoys" shirts are a parody of the Talbot Street Pier Inc.'s popular "M. R. Ducks" shirts.

M. R. Ducks is Eastern Shore waterman's lingo for "Them're Ducks." M. R. Ducks shirts have become popular items in Ocean City, other parts of Maryland and in Delaware since they were created in 1983 to promote the M. R. Ducks bar in Ocean City.

But a lawyer for the Talbot shirtmaker suggested yesterday that if the "Not Ducks" shirts are a joke, many people won't get it.

The lawyer, D. Christopher Ohly placed the Budweiser can into

evidence and asked John Layton, president of the "Not Ducks" firm, to compare it to the "King of Beaches" shirt.

"There probably isn't anybody in the world who isn't going to get the joke, isn't that right?" he asked.

Mr. Layton agreed.

Before he began making the "Not Ducks" shirts, Mr. Layton testified, his company had contacted the Talbot Street Pier owners to try to strike a deal that would allow him to manufacture their shirts.

He insisted, during cross examination, that he did not threaten Talbot Street owners that he would produce a competing T-shirt if they refused to allow him to produce the M. R. Ducks shirts.

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