On March 30, the federal court overseeing Stone Brewing’s trademark dispute rejected defendant MillerCoors/Keystone’s motion for summary judgment (a judgment by the court for one party and against another without a trial).
In 2018 Stone Brewing sued MillerCoors, a subsidiary of the multinational beer conglomerate Molson Coors, claiming sales of its craft brews dropped after MillerCoors rebranded its Keystone line with a beer can redesign that separated “key” and ‘stone” on the word STONE.
‘In a 41-page order dated March 27 and made available Monday, U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez found it was a “close call” in deciding whether to grant Stone Brewing summary judgment on its trademark infringement claim against the Keystone beer maker” according to Courthouse News Service. “He ultimately found it was a decision for a jury.
“Evaluating all the factors and the evidence provided by the parties, the court cannot find plaintiff has, as a matter of law, demonstrated a likelihood of consumer confusion, although it is a close call,” Benitez wrote.
At the trial, which is now set for October 2020, Stone seeks to recover $1 Billion in losses incurred by consumer confusion which benefited Keystone’s sales. And a halt to Keystone’s use of STONE®, a trademark that is owned by the Escondido, CA-headquartered brewery…
And as the Full Pint correctly noted “The Court ruled that Stone’s claims must proceed to trial and that multiple factors weighed positively in Stone’s favor:
- That the STONE® trademark “has obtained incontestable status” and that Stone “has a valid and legally protectable mark.”
- That a jury could find MillerCoors has been “willfully using Plaintiff’s mark to suggest a connection between Keystone Light and the Stone Brewery product line” and “such actions have created confusion in the promotion of Keystone Light and Stone products throughout the marketplace.”
- That there was a “fourteen-year gap” in Keystone’s evidence of purported historical use of “STONES”.
Stone Brewing CEO Dominic Engels said in a statement it “was a good day for independent craft beer and our employees.”
“The court’s order allows the jury to rectify years of injury to Stone’s name and business. All of us at Stone are hopeful that #truestonevskeystone will have a meaningful impact on Stone and on craft beer as a whole.”
Molson Coors countered with its own statement on the matter arguing that it had been using the using “Stone” as a nickname for the brand since before Stone Brewing was in business…..
“These two products look nothing alike, as the judge noted, and are competing for an entirely different consumer. There is no credible evidence that consumers are confused and we’re confident we will prevail when the case is decided by a judge and jury,” the company stated.”
Hmmm…This David vs Goliath trademark battle is going to be interesting to watch…