Monster Energy Suing A Fishing Gear Company Claiming Customer Confusion
from the monster-mash dept
Normally when discussing a company that has appeared on our pages before for being a trademark bully, I like to list off and link to a few examples. Monster Energy, the company that makes fizzy caffeine bombs in liquid form, makes that all very silly. You need only look at all the stories we’ve done on the company to see why: there are simply too many of them from which to choose. I could be convinced that the company was, in fact, doing some kind of avant-garde art piece highlighting the horrors of the trademark bully were I not so well informed of Monster’s ridiculous behavior overall.
And here we are again. Monster Energy has sued Slimecat Rods, a fishing gear company, for trademark infringement among other things. Why? Well, some of the gear is branded as “monster” gear.
The defendants are allegedly involved in the manufacturing, design, and marketing of fishing gear. The plaintiff contends that their products use trademarks and trade dress that are similar to that of Monster in a way that may confuse consumers. The stylization and color scheme of the defendant’s logo purportedly creates a “strikingly similar commercial impression” to Monster’s.
Since the defendants allegedly market their products to a similar audience as the plaintiffs, Monster states that they are likely causing “confusion, mistake, and deception among the relevant consuming public.” Monster believes that if the misconduct continues, they will experience damage and irreparable harm to their reputation.
There are two items we have to tackle here: similarity of the trade dress and the whole “similar audience” claim. On the topic of similarity of the marks, Monster Energy does what it always does in these suits and spends several pages listing out all of its marks on the word “monster” and embedding a buttload of pictures showing those marks in commerce. Then, as is again typical, it shows the “infringing” marks to show how similar they are. For instance:
Confused? Me too! That looks nothing like the overall Monster Energy branding. Nothing in there would leave anyone looking to snag some fish confused. Slimecat’s name is prominent on the branding. It’s all very distinct. But Monster’s suit calls this use “confusingly similar”. If that doesn’t strike you as absurd, the problem lies with you.
Not content with making such silly claims, Monster goes on to note that both companies use green and black coloration in their branding, before doing a laughably deep dive into how similar some of the letters are in font.
Again, if you think those are wildly similar in terms of how different a font can be, you’re the problem, not Slimecat.
But wait, I can hear you saying, Monster makes drinks and apparel, not fish gear. These aren’t in the same market, therefore trademark shouldn’t really apply. Well, Monster’s response to that is that they sponsor fishing and outdoors events. Yes, seriously.
Since 2019, Monster has also been the official and exclusive energy drink sponsor of the American Bass Anglers, Inc. (ABA) tournament trail, and has been showcased at ABA Open Series. Each ABA Open Series division offers four one-day qualifying events in a boater/co-angler format. Monster was also featured as a sponsor in the Ultimate Bass Team Tour, including its Tournament of Champions on Lake Mohave. Photographic examples from those events are shown below.
But that isn’t the same thing as using the marks in commerce directly by providing a product or service in a certain category. KIA isn’t suddenly in the basketball business because it sponsors the NBA. I have seen this tactic attempted by other companies in the past and can’t recall it ever working.
And, when you put that alongside the spurious nature of the rest of Monster’s claims, this all comes across as bullying at best, or very stupid at worst. So, you know, pretty much par for the course for Monster Energy.