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iBeer vs. iPint: a brewing controversy

October 14, 2008 |  7:22 pm

When you put your feet up at the end of a long day, do you drink an iBeer or an iPint? The fact that you have a choice over iPhone beer applications makes the creators of iBeer hoppin' mad.

The applications work like this: Download one from the App Store, and you can make your iPhone look like a glass of beer. Tip it back as if you're drinking from it and the beer disappears slowly. (Check out the video at the top of the post if you're still confused.)

As first reported on Wired, Hottrix, the Nevada company behind iBeer, sued Molson Coors Brewing Co. and ad agency Beattie McGuinnes Bungay Ltd., the makers of iPint, in a Los Angeles District Court last week. Hottrix accused Beattie, which does advertising work for Coors, of copying iBeer. IPint "dilutes the market," the lawsuit says, causing Hottrix to "suffer irreparable damages and lost profits."

According to the lawsuit, iBeer creator Steve Sheraton made a "video of a beverage (seemingly beer) magically rising inside a glass" for use on an iPhone in August of 2007. A few months later, Beattie McGuinnes Bungay asked Sheraton whether it could use iBeer to market Coors. Sheraton said no.

Beattie McGuinnes then copied iBeer anyway, creating iPint, which shows beer rising in a glass, just as iBeer does, and allows users to play a game in which they can move beer on their screen. The game advertised Carling Beer, but Jason H. Fisher, a lawyer for Hottrix, said the game was merely added to differentiate iPint from iBeer.

When the App Store launched in July, iBeer cost users $2.99. IPint was free. Guess which one people downloaded? 

"As iPint increased in popularity, iBeer 2.0 decreased in popularity since end users could get ostensibly the same application without a direct cost (besides viewing the Carling advertising) of paying $2.99 for iBeer 2.0," the lawsuit says.

Hottrix sent the ad shop a "cease and desist" letter and informed Apple of the infringement issues, and iPint was removed from the App Store in the United States. Then, iBeer rose in popularity (like beer rising magically in a glass) and became a top 5 paid download in the U.S. But iPint is still available in international markets, so Hottrix is suing to get it taken down. Hottrix estimates its lost profit to be around $12.5 million.

"We actually tried to work with Molson Coors to get this resolved before it went into litigation," Fisher said. "But we were met with no cooperation and we were forced to file the lawsuit."

It should be noted that according to his website, Sheraton, the guy who invented iBeer, is a certified magician and physical comedian, as well as a "general nutcase speaking 7 languages." He is a graduate of the Chavez College of Magic in Los Angeles.

But not even magic, it seems, could protect the iBeer from litigation. Where's Harry Potter when you need him? He's probably of legal drinking age by now, right?

-- Alana Semuels

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