Meister Brau, Braniff and 148 Other Trademarks to Be Sold at Auction

Brands USA Holdings Putting Its Collection of Classic Brands on the Block

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Meister Brau occupies an important place in U.S beer history as the precursor to Miller Lite -- and, more recently, as the favorite beer of Cousin Eddie, the unforgettable red neck in National Lampoon's "Vacation" movies.

Now it can be yours.

The beer label is among 150 trademarks that span 13 categories ranging from toys to personal-care products that will be auctioned off next month in New York. The trademarks -- most of them a lot less known than Meister Brau -- were acquired over the years by Michael Reich, CEO of Brands USA Holdings, who apparently believes now is the best time to sell.

"In recent years, there has been a renewed interest around the world in branding that evokes nostalgia, making this auction of classic trademarks a rare opportunity for investors and forward-thinking companies looking to capitalize on the authenticity that they provide in the global marketplace," said John Cuticelli, CEO of Racebrook, which is conducting the auction on behalf of Brands USA on Dec. 8 at the Waldorf Astoria or via online bidding.

Other trademarks up for sale include American Brands Inc., the former name of Fortune Brands; Handi-Wrap, a plastic wrap once sold by Dow; Lucky Whip, a dessert topping first sold in 1958; Braniff International, a Dallas-based airline that ended service in 1982; Pom Poms, a chocolate candy similar to Milk Duds; Fruit Bombs; Old Soda Shoppe; and hair-care products Long & Silky and Short & Sassy. There's even a not-so-old tech brand up for sale: Infoseek.

Meister Brau was first sold in Chicago in the 1890s at a brewery founded by a Prussian immigrant. A group of investors acquired the brand in the 1960s, and tried to market a low-calorie version. The brand was later sold to Miller Brewing Co.

"What [Miller] really wanted was the Lite trademark name, and the rest is history," said Maureen Ogle, author of "Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer."

Racebook is touting the auction as an opportunity to give buyers "the chance to acquire [trademarks] for a fraction of [their] value and re-establish [them] for commercial use," noting that 30% of the trademarks will not carry bidding minimums.

For Meister Brau, turning it back into a valuable brand might be easier said than done, Ms. Ogle said.

"The only people it would probably have cachet to is people who grew up in Chicago in the '50s and '60s because it really was Chicago's beer," she said. But "it never really became a big national brand," she added. "I think it would be a very tough sell outside the Chicago area."

Unless, of course, Cousin Eddie is interested.

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