DES MOINES — The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the family of a bartender who balanced beer on her bosom.
Exile Brewing created a beer in 2012 called “Ruthie” in honor of Ruth Bisignano, who became famous at her Des Moines bar in the 1950s and 60’s by balancing two pint glasses of beer on her chest. That brew became their best seller.
Ruth died in 1993, and family members reopened her estate and sued Exile claiming appropriation of Ruth’s name and likeness, and the commercial value of her identity. Exile sought to have the reopening of the estate dismissed, but the Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s ruling denying that attempt.
The ruling says that Exile’s only connection to the estate is as a potential debtor — and says it takes no position on the existence or inheritability of Ruth’s name, image, and likeness rights.
A federal civil case against Exile on the use of Ruth’s name is scheduled for trial early next year.
Here’s the full ruling: Ruthie’s ruling PDF