On March 25, 2022, after a contentious, four year-long court battle, a jury awarded Stone Brewing Co. $56 million in damages against beer conglomerate MillerCoors, now Molson Coors, finding that MillerCoors infringed the craft brewery’s STONE trademark. Though Stone Brewing initially sought $256 million in damages, the brewery’s co-founder, Greg Koch, celebrated the verdict as a major victory, calling it “a historic day for Stone Brewing, and for the craft beer industry.” For brand owners, this decision underscores the importance of protecting one’s trademark rights.
Stone Brewing first filed the trademark infringement lawsuit in 2018, alleging that MillerCoors intended to trade off of the goodwill and recognition of Stone Brewing’s STONE brand when it rebranded its Keystone beer to emphasize the word “stone.” Indeed, MillerCoors’ rebranding changed the overall appearance of the word “keystone” on its packaging and advertising, separating the words “key” from “stone,” and making the word “stone” more prominent. Notably, this rebranding came after MillerCoors tried to register the trademark STONES in connection with its beer in 2007. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office denied this trademark application on the basis that there was a likelihood of confusion with Stone Brewing’s STONE registration. Stone Brewing pointed to this attempted registration as evidence that MillerCoors’ later rebranding constituted willful infringement.
Our friends (and former contributors) at Seattle-based BrandVerity produced the latest detailed study of how trademark bidders are hurting branded keywords.
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Brexit, the United Kingdom’s (UK) decision to leave the European Union (EU), is headline news. Brexit is already impacting trademark rights in Europe, including in the hospitality industry.
Ruth Walters, member of our Hospitality, Travel & Tourism practice, focuses on hospitality operations, general intellectual property and technology transactions. In today’s post, she describes how trademark infringement suits can be tricky at best and the various factors to consider before filing suit. Thank you for today’s post, Ruth! – Greg
Do you need to register or renew your trademark? Claire Hawkins, member of our IP & Technology and Hospitality, Travel & Tourism practice groups, shares the good news of reduced application fees being offered by the U.S. Trademark Office in 2015. Thank you for today’s post, Claire! – Greg
What is soft branding? Is it better to be a soft brand or a hard brand? Claire Hawkins, Chair of Garvey Schubert Barer’s Intellectual Property Practice and member of Garvey Schubert Barer’s Hospitality, Travel and Tourism Practice, gives serious consideration to the outer edges of soft branding and offers her insights on the intellectual property components hoteliers and restaurateurs need to consider. Thank you for today’s post, Claire! – Greg
Since 2013 the number and type of web domains has exploded and is having a major impact on brands. Ruth Walters has been watching this new era of growth and can share her insights on brand protection. Ruth focuses on hospitality operations and general intellectual property and technology transactions. Thank you for today’s post, Ruth! - Greg
Is hotel rebranding the latest 2014 trend? Claire Hawkins, Chair of Garvey Schubert Barer's Intellectual Property Practice and new author to Duff on Hospitality, weighs in on the topic and offers her insights on the intellectual property elements you'll need to consider. Thank you for today's post, Claire! - Greg
By now, nearly every revenue manager, electronic distribution manager and sales and marketing manager is familiar with the significance of keywords and the need for brand owners to manage third parties’ use of keywords in search-based Internet marketing. Every negotiation of an online distribution agreement (whether direct-to-consumer, wholesale or otherwise) should include careful consideration about reasonable restrictions or conditions a hotelier will place on a distributor’s use of keywords.
As technology continues to evolve and to disrupt many traditional travel sales, marketing and distribution channels (Tnooz alone seems to report on new search-based tools weekly), owners and operators must reconsider their historical (and by now standard) approaches to critical contract provisions that address how and to what extent a distributor may use the hoteliers’ trademarks, trade names, logos and other intellectual property, including use as keywords. The recent and much publicized launch of Promoted Hotels by Google served as an important reminder of this fact.
Promoted Hotels is Google’s new search-based marketing tool that allows hoteliers, OTAs and anyone else interested in securing a preferred booking position over other channels to bid for the right to be the primary (and sometimes, sole) booking option in ads that appear at the top of the Google Hotel Finder search results. As you might expect, nearly all of the searches that I ran for hotels in various locations across the U.S. featured ads and links placed by OTAs and not the featured properties themselves. Does any of this sound familiar?
If you have a trademark that is registered with the United States Patent & Trademark Office before September 1, 2011, and you are not in the adult entertainment business, you should consider making a pre-emptive registration of the URL [your trademark].xxx now, to prevent someone who is in the adult entertainment industry from registering it later.
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Greg Duff founded and chairs Foster Garvey’s national Hospitality, Travel & Tourism group. His practice largely focuses on operations-oriented matters faced by hospitality industry members, including sales and marketing, distribution and e-commerce, procurement and technology. Greg also serves as counsel and legal advisor to many of the hospitality industry’s associations and trade groups, including AH&LA, HFTP and HSMAI.