When you reach for a beer, are you ever confused about whether you’re holding a Stone craft beer or a mass-produced Keystone Lite? Probably not. But what if it was a keySTONE Lite? That’s the question before a San Diego-based Federal Court.
On Monday, February 12, San Diego County-based Stone Brewing filed a lawsuit against the giant brewing conglomerate known as Molson Coors Brewing Company and MillerCoors LLC. We’ll just call the parties “Stone” and “MillerCoors” to make it easy.
You can read Stone’s complaint, which initiated the lawsuit, by clicking on this link. I also recommend checking out this amusing video, titled “Stone Brewing Sues Big Beer,” in which Stone co-founder Greg Koch explains why they’re embarking on this lawsuit. Full disclosure: Koch and I have met a few times, although I haven’t seen or spoken with him in several years.
A trademark gives the owner the exclusive right to use a word, phrase, symbol, or combination thereof in connection with particular goods or services. There’s no question Stone Brewing is the owner of STONE as a trademark for beer. Here’s a link to their U.S. trademark registration.
It’s also undisputed that MillerCoors owns KEYSTONE as a trademark for beer. Here’s a link to their U.S. trademark registration. Of course, the word “Keystone” includes the word “Stone,” but, in Koch’s video, Stone Brewing claims that “Stone” “as a standalone word in the world of beer” belongs to them.
(One more piece of table-setting: Trademark lawyers typically express trademarks in all caps to distinguish them from regular words in a sentence.)
Stone is claiming MillerCoors violated Stone’s trademark rights by modifying their KEYSTONE brand to hide the “key” and emphasize the “stone.” Stone alleges, among other claims, these actions constitute trademark infringement.
Stone is asking the court to enjoin (prevent) MillerCoors from using the STONE trademark and is asking for the amount of profits MillerCoors has received from its unauthorized use of the STONE trademark plus triple the amount of actual economic damages suffered by Stone, along with attorneys’ fees.