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December 4, 2009

Duff Beer — Homer Simpson's favorite — is here

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Long story short: Mexican entrepreneur Rodrigo Contreras is producing it as fast as he can at a brewery in Tijuana called Simpson's Brewing Company until Fox takes legal action.

So far, so good.

But if you want some I'd act now because I guarantee it's not a matter of "if" but rather "when" Fox decides to put the hammer down.

According to Adam Thomson's Financial Times story, which follows, "The biggest prize is the U.S., where the beer [top] is available through a couple of businesses that import it from Mexico."

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The last word: Mexican marketing man brings Homer Simpson's favourite beer to life

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Zaida Hernández sits on a small black leatherette sofa with her friend Ana in Mexico City's King's Pub. The lights are low, the music is loud and the special offer tonight is pizza and frozen mojitos, served in a wide-rimmed martini glass.

But Ms Hernández, a round-faced design student, is not drinking mojitos. She is drinking Duff Beer , the preferred beverage of Homer Simpson.

"We were looking for something different," she says, taking a closer look at the label, which is practically the same as the design on the cans in the cartoon. "When someone offers you Duff, I guess you just have to try it."

That is exactly what Rodrigo Contreras, the real-life producer of Duff Beer, wanted to hear. A marketing man, Mr Contreras has always had an eye for a gimmick. The $140,000 (€93,000, £84,000) investment to establish Duff, his company, came from the proceeds of a book he wrote about Vicente Fox, a former president of Mexico, who is remembered for everything he failed to do in office. The book consists of 136 blank pages.

Mr Contreras first thought of producing Duff in 2002 while watching "The Simpsons". "I thought to myself on countless occasions: 'Someone should do that,'" he says. "Then I thought: 'Why not me?'"

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One reason is Fox, the media colossus and owner of "The Simpsons". In one reported case in the late 1990s, the Lion Nathan brewery in Australia was ordered to withdraw its Duff Beer after Fox brought legal action for trademark infringement — even though the product bore no resemblance to that in the series.

Fox would not confirm that report. When asked about Mr Contreras's Duff Beer, the network said it could not comment on any legal action it may or may not be taking. It simply said: " The Simpsons is a Twentieth Century Fox property, and Fox owns the rights to The Simpsons universe. We intend to protect our rights."

Mr Contreras insists he contacted Fox in 2006, and has been ignored since. He also claims he contacted Gracie Films, the series' producer. "I wanted to reassure them I wasn't a thief and I didn't want to steal their ideas," he says. He was looking for a partnership but, with no firm answer, decided to push on.

The beer is brewed in Tijuana by a company called Simpson's Brewing Company, which Mr Contreras stresses is a coincidence.

He says sales in Europe, where he launched the beer, now vary between 25 and 30 containers a month - a container holds 1,716 cases of 24 bottles each - compared with six when he began in 2006.

In Mexico, sales have increased from two containers a month when he started production earlier this year, to about 10.

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This growth is impressive given that Mr Contreras has spent almost nothing on advertising. But as Javier Suarez, the manager of King's Pub, says: "The moment you offer customers Duff Beer from "The Simpsons",they rip it out of your hands."

But the same reason for the drink's success could also be a drawback. Most consumers know the fictional drink is a parody of the kind of mass-produced beer found throughout the US. Besides, its most famous consumer is hardly most people's role model. And Mr Contreras admits: "We love Homer but we don't necessarily want to be like him. My worst fear is that people just buy Duff Beer once to keep the bottle."

Mr Contreras says the next stage is to begin producing Duff in cans, like the ones Homer drinks. The idea is to do an initial run of 300,000 cans in Mexico. He has invested about $400,000 in getting them to market, and the Tijuana brewery has invested an additional $1.1m. Mr Contreras also intends to establish 35 bars throughout Mexico where he will sell the beer.

But the biggest prize is the US, where the beer is available through a couple of businesses that import it from Mexico, but where Mr Contreras has yet to register the trademark.

"I am not going to enter until I know whether they [Fox] are going to fight me or go in with me." he says.

Given Fox's silence, he might have to wait some time.

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According to Wikipedia , "Matt Groening has stated that he will not license the Duff trademark to brew an actual beer, over concern that it will encourage children to drink."

More from Wikipedia: "Since 2006, Rodrigo Contreras, from Guadalajara, Mexico [has been] setting up a business with the purpose of selling Duff beer. He managed to register the 'Duff' trademark in Mexico, as well as the domain name DuffDeMexico.com. Contreras designed the bottle to be identical to the one portrayed on 'The Simpsons.' The bottle can be seen at his website. The beer is currently available at a few bars, but Contreras has stated his intention of selling it at convenience stores and even exporting it to the U.S.

"This case has been featured in several Mexican newspapers and magazines, but most of them focus on the novelty the beer represents, rather than the legal implications of it. The 'Duff' trademark was not registered in Mexico before Contreras registered it; however, Mexican intellectual property law recognizes the concept of 'brand notoriety,' which states that if any brand is well-known by a specific section of consumers or industry due to the commercial activities and/or advertisement done by its owners, they have the right to claim the ownership of the trademark. What seems to be a pirated Duff beer produced by Contreras is about to be released in Colombia. According to its website, he may already have a local trademark over 'Duff,' since it claims that another Duff pirate was jailed in Bogotá."

December 4, 2009 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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Comments

Joe,

Get that crack research team working and let us know where we can get some Duff Beer! (Locations in Tampa, FL a major plus!)

I still treasure my can of "Brawndo" which is an energy drink in the movie "Idiocracy". A company makes a copy of it that you can purchase online. It's pretty cool to have a pseudo-souvenir prop from a movie or tv show, and I'd love to get my hands on some of that wonderful Duff!

I'm going to see if I can find it anywhere, and I'll let you know if I score.

Posted by: EEJ | Dec 8, 2009 11:34:31 AM

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