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.
Google recently updated its trademark policy, and although some believe the changes are cause for concern, citing increased costs per click, that may not be the case. The following aims to bring some clarity to the issue.
Google has consistently expanded its Google Ads policy in allowing trademark keyword bids and the use of trademarked terms in the text of advertisements. The tech giant has always expanded these policies by regions, and just last week, Japan was added to the mix.
The digital world is a vast, Amazonian river of intellectual property (IP) – software, brands, photos, video clips, music, guest information, guest reviews – flowing quickly in every direction. Almost any significant issue arising in this space highlights the juxtaposition between an IP owner’s desire – in some cases legal obligation – to control and protect its content (i.e. intellectual property) with the desire to have content exposed to more and different consumers and potential consumers, across ever proliferating channels.
In HOTEL Yearbook Special Edition – Digital Marketing 2017, I will provide valuable legal insights and advice pertaining to the hotel world.
The full article is available for download on HOTEL Yearbook 2017’s website (login or registration is required.)
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.