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.
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
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.