Monster Energy Attempts To Run From Laughable Trademark Spat It Started With Thunder Beast Root Beer

from the monster-hunting dept

Readers here will hear the name "Monster Energy Corporation", makers of the Monster Energy beverage, and likely immediately roll their collective eyes. Monster Energy has truly been a monster when it comes to trademark bullying over some of the most frivolous claims imaginable. From threats against breweries over location-based puns, to threats against beverage review sites it doesn't like, and even threats against an actor that featured in a monster movie over a photo he tweeted holding a Monster Energy drink, the company is something of a joke in trademark circles.

Which hasn't kept the company from continuing its bullying ways, of course. The latest version of its efforts concerns a startup root beer company in DC that dared to use the word "beast" in its name, with Monster Energy asserting that beast is too close to monster and oh my god why is this universe such a silly, silly place?

Thunder Beast, a small DC root beer company, is fighting trademark violation allegations from California-based Monster Energy Corporation. About a year ago, Thunder Beast, which operates out of the TasteLab food incubator in Northeast, received a cease-and-desist letter from Monster over the use of the word “beast” in the company name.

In its letter, Monster argued customers might accidentally buy one of Thunder Beast’s bison-emblazoned beverages when they intended to buy an energy drink. Monster claims Thunder Beast infringes on its brand, which includes trademarked slogans such as “PUMP UP THE BEAST” and “UNLEASH THE ULTRA BEAST,” its petition for cancellation reads.

Whereas many small companies might turn tail, Thunder Beast founder Stephen Norberg did his research and discovered that Monster Energy was a trademark bully of the silliest order. Instead of giving in, he hired a lawyer and decided to fight back. Monster didn't sue the company for infringement in federal court, but rather went to the US Patent & Trademark Office's Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) seeking to get Thunder Beast's own trademark cancelled. Monster initially insisted it wanted a TTAB trial over all of this, but more recently said that looking at Thunder Beast's website showed that there was nothing about which to be concerned (seems a bit late to realize that). After stating that, Monster's lawyers reportedly then offered a settlement. Which doesn't make any sense, so Norberg's lawyer declined.

“At the end of this I’d already spent so much time and money and done so much discovery work … that when they finally got around to giving me a settlement offer that was reasonable I decided to reject it,” says Norberg. “I wanted to publicly defend so that when other small businesses get harassed by Monster Energy, they will be able to research this issue and see that they have a history of doing this and that it’s possible and fairly easy for the underdog to stand up to these big corporate bullies and defeat them if you’re in the right.”

Oops. More than that, Norberg is using the company website to put all of this in front of its customers, to take donations for its legal defense fund, and to attempt to turn this whole ordeal into a positive by framing his business as one that "fights monsters." It's all actually fairly clever.

Thunder Beast is raising money for legal fees on its website, advertising their struggle with funny graphics and proclaiming, “Forget being the underdog. We’re going full #UnderThunder.”

“I really want to make it the DNA of my company to fight monsters, which is something I’m putting on all my new labels: Fight Monsters,” Norberg says. “I think that’s something that resonates with every human being, and it’s something I want to use my company to inspire people to do.”

It's the saga of many bullies: threats are made, the bully gets punched in the nose, then proceeds to run away. We'll see just how far Monster Energy elects to run from Thunder Beast, but if it's already proposing lenient settlements and even those aren't being accepted, a hasty retreat might be the best move.


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  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 30 Mar 2017 @ 5:01pm

    If only attempts to abuse your Trademark could result in you losing it.
    One does wonder if companies would be so eager to pay lawyers that promise them total control over everything, when the result could be losing the mark. It might even kill off some of the parasitic lawyers out there who file what they know are pointless lawsuits just to get paid. It would work better than the alleged oversight from inside the system.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 30 Mar 2017 @ 8:30pm

      Re:

      If only attempts to abuse your Trademark could result in you losing it.

      The test for that "abuse" is in losing the lawsuit. Think of what happens next.

      Corporations (they're people too!) would demand equal treatment. Anyone suing them and losing is by definition abusing the legal system and subject to punishment beyond just the legal fees.

      Corporations already have the upper hand through much larger legal funds. This would tip the balance further in their favor.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TechDescartes (profile), 30 Mar 2017 @ 5:05pm

    All-You-Can-Pay Justice Buffet

    Unfortunately, the question is not how much justice you deserve. It's how much can you afford? Good for him standing up to Monster.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      TechDescartes (profile), 31 Mar 2017 @ 1:24pm

      Re: All-You-Can-Pay Justice Buffet

      BTW, Monster isn't proceeding on the basis of its "MONSTER" marks but on the basis of any entirely separate set of trademarks relating to the word "BEAST", as shown in the documents at the bottom of the post.

      The only likelihood of confusion I see in this story is Tim's objection over "Monster Energy asserting that beast is too close to monster and oh my god why is this universe such a silly, silly place?" Might want to fix that.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2017 @ 5:31pm

    Remember people: Think before you sue.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 30 Mar 2017 @ 7:42pm

    And Monster (Cable, etc.) didn't imagine a trademark violation? Color me shocked. Someone might confuse a beastly root beer with some overpriced braided wire.

    Oh, but Monster (Power) has already been down that road with Monster Energy (Hansen/Monster Beverage). No go again? Awww.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2017 @ 8:10pm

    Sad thing is unless Monster Energy truly does run with its tail between its legs so bad they pay up to make it go away, Thunder Beast is not going to see any of its costs for fighting this egregious bully recouped.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Narcissus (profile), 31 Mar 2017 @ 2:57am

    Reason to buy?

    Perhaps Thunder Beast could release a special limited edition of their beverage and sell it at a high price to add to their defense fund.

    I suggest they call it "Beast beats monster!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 31 Mar 2017 @ 5:58am

    A couple years ago Triple Crown hopeful American Pharoah signed a deal with Monster worth over $7 million. Perhaps that was the "Beast" connection that Monster wanted to protect.

    (If the horse didn't win the Triple Crown, it had a back-up deal with Arby's.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JustMe (profile), 31 Mar 2017 @ 8:39am

    Donated!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2017 @ 12:36pm

    Hot story, sis.

    Or at least it's not cool and you're not my "bro".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2017 @ 3:00pm

    Shouldn't we be more concerned about the poisonous illegal crap that a certain drinks company MONSTROUSLY added to their black and green cans and tried to pretend never happened?

    Or the bright green carcinogenic colorants they use despite it being banned (bribery plays a big part here)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2017 @ 3:02pm

    Still as long as they don't use the phrase 'MONSTROUSLY carcinogenic', thunder beast should be OK.

    or possibly 'release the diabetes monster'

    or 'My children's teeth are MONSTROUSLY rotted due to poisonous green water candy'

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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