Stone Brewing, One-Time Battlers Of 'Big Beer', Out Here Trying To Cancel Non-Confusing Trademarks

from the stone-cold dept

In the past few years, as the craft brewing industry exploded, it became something of a regular thing for us to write about one craft beer trademark dispute or another. The idea is that as the industry has grown, it’s become corporatized. The once congenial atmosphere of the industry, one which saw breweries heavily borrow from one another, or skirt the line of potential confusion, devolved into suited lawyers arguing about beer brands. And if that doesn’t make you sad, you simply have no soul.

Stone Brewing was once one of the smaller craft breweries out there and built a reputation for itself for taking on “big beer.” That stance morphed in 2018 into a lawsuit against MillerCoors over the latter’s rebranding of Keystone beer into “Stone” on its can labels.

In March 2020, a federal court rejected both sides’ motions for summary judgment and the case will now move to trial in October 2020. Stone Brewing is seeking to recover $1 billion in damages in regard to infringing sales. Coincidentally, in the lawsuit, MillerCoors argues that the San Diego-based craft brewery’s trademark of the word “stone” f is “conceptually weak because at least 10 other craft breweries actively use the word ‘Stone’ in their name.”

And that pushback from MillerCoors appears to have been the catalyst for Stone morphing, just like its industry has, into one of corporate lawyering and aggressive trademark enforcement. Since March, it appears that Stone has gone hunting for other breweries that have been using the word “stone” in their names and, in several cases, is attempting to have that trademark cancelled.

First reported by Kindsey Bernhard of Kentucky Sports Radio, who uncovered a series of tweets stemming from Patrick Fannin of Dreaming Creek Brewery in Richmond, KY, Fannin explains that Stone Brewing has issued a trademark cancellation request against Sawstone Brewing for their use of the word “stone” in the brewery’s name. Stone Brewing first filed for their mark of the word in 1997.

Upon further investigation of the US Patent and Trademark Office, the Sawstone Brewing team discovered that Stone Brewing has also issued similar trademark cancellation requests in approximately 100 instances this year where entities have used the word “stone” or “bastard” in either their alcohol-related business or products. Stone Brewing is also the creator and trademark holder for Arrogant Bastard Ales.

And so here we are. The once-little-guy brewery that took on MillerCoors, and in some circles was applauded as a David taking on Goliath, is now just a Junior Goliath taking swats at all kinds of Davids.

And, as should be obvious, this sort of shotgun approach to trademark cancellation is complete horseshit. If Stone were so concerned and injured by these uses of the word “stone” by other breweries, or if there were any actual customer confusion to have here, why now? Where is the evidence of harm and confusion? If it exists, why hasn’t Stone sued before?

Or, to take the least charitable view, is Stone simply going after its fellow craft breweries to bolster its seven-figure claims lawsuit against MillerCoors?

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Companies: stone brewing

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Comments on “Stone Brewing, One-Time Battlers Of 'Big Beer', Out Here Trying To Cancel Non-Confusing Trademarks”

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Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

No Risk of Confusion

There was little risk of confusion between Stone and Keystone. One made beer, the other made pale yellow fizzy water. I enjoy the Arrogant, but would not be much interested in the pale yellow fizzy water.

Stone Brewing was just someone getting to the name first. The particular beers do stand out.

If Keystone changed their name to Stone, then there is a clear infringement. Risk of confusion, dilution of a good brand with cheap fizzy fluid, and consumers being cheated will all be present.

The Arrogant Bastard works well for a humble counsellor. I remember first encountering it out on the coast. It is good stuff on draft. I have also enjoyed the “enjoy by” series of beers.

That said, as the kind of customer who would be interested in the Stone Brewing beers, I am very unlikely to be confused by Keystone, Sandstone, Sawstone, Soapstone, Limestone, Talcumstone, Whetstone, Rockmart, or See-Rock-City branding.

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