MillerCoors finally responds to Stone Brewing’s trademark suit

MillerCoors, a subsidiary of Molson Coors Brewing, has finally responded to a lawsuit by Stone Brewing, filed two months ago, calling it “misleading and ultimately meritless” and stating that, rather than a trademark issue, it is about “Stone Brewing’s struggle with its new identity as a global mega-craft beer manufacturer”.

While MillerCoors’ media relations manager Marty Maloney is reported to have dismissed the lawsuit as a “publicity stunt” shortly after it was issued, MillerCoors released its first official response yesterday (11 April.)

In an 82-page response to the lawsuit, MillerCoors blasts Stone Brewing’s lawsuit as “misleading and ultimately meritless”.

California’s Stone Brewing filed its lawsuit in February this year following the rebrand of MillerCoors’ Keystone beer, which it says emphasises the word “stone” rather than “key” and represents an effort to create confusion in the marketplace with their own brand.

In a Youtube video released to accompany the suit, Greg Koch, co-founder and executive chairman of Stone Brewing, describes the actions of MillerCoors as “surprisingly bold” and “disconcerting”, stating that in the world of beer “the name Stone is ours”.

In its response, MillerCoors states that although the case is portrayed as “verbatim copying,” what Stone is objecting to is MillerCoors’ use of the ‘Keystone’ mark.

Rather than placing greater emphasis on the world ‘stone’, MillerCoors claims every can is clearly labelled with ‘Keystone’. In addition, the brewing giant states that it registered a trademark for ‘Keystone’ “nearly a decade before Stone Brewing registered ‘Stone'”.

Furthermore, it claims that its beer is regularly referred to as ‘Stone’ by customers and that in its lawsuit and accompanying video and graphics, Stone used “misleading images” that are “not a true image of the can”.

It added: “Stone Brewing raised these same exact issues to MillerCoors in 2010, but, in spite of MillerCoors’ rejection of Stone Brewing’s complaints at that time and continued use of ‘Stone’ and ‘Stones’ thereafter, Stone Brewing waited eight years to file this lawsuit”.

Co-founder and executive chairman of Stone Brewing, Greg Koch. MillerCoors believes this is an example of “misleading imagery”.

Stone Brewing ‘is struggling with mega-craft identity’

MillerCoors then goes on to state that this case is not about trademarks, but rather “Stone Brewing’s struggle with its new identity as a global mega-craft beer manufacturer”.

The report continued: “What does a company that was built around its opposition to “Big Beer” do when it becomes “Big Beer?” Stone Brewing’s solution appears to be to file this meritless lawsuit against MillerCoors.

“Stone Brewing also hopes this lawsuit can perpetuate the idea of a “war” between “Big Beer” and “Craft Beer,” and position itself in the eyes of its customers not as “Big Beer,” but a rebel against “Big Beer.

“In reality, there is no actual “war” between these beer companies except in the minds of Stone Brewing’s CEO and marketing staff. People just want to drink beer”.

It also stated that customers were unlikely to be confused by the two different beers, and if any confusion did occur, it claims that it had been using ‘Stone’ in its advertising well before Stone Brewing.

“Coors used the term Stone in Keystone advertisements as early as 1992–1993. By the mid-1990s, the Stone nickname was clearly present in Keystone ads.Therefore, Coors’ use of ‘Stone’ and ‘Stones’ predates
Stone Brewing’s use of ‘Stone,'” the response states.

In its lawsuit, Stone Brewing asked the court to stop MillerCoors’ use of the ‘Stone’ mark in connection with the sale and distribution of its Keystone beer. It is also seeking damages and the profits following the sale of the rebranded Keystone beers.

MillerCoors, on the other hand, is asking the court to find that it didn’t infringe on Stone Brewing’s trademark. It is also asking for the right to use the terms ‘Stone’ and ‘Stones’ in its Keystone beer adverts and has stated that it’s entitled to “exclusive common law right to use ‘Stone’ in connection with the sale of beer in the United States”.

It also claims that Stone Brewing cannot act on its lawsuit since it filed it eight years after the initial cease and desist letter sent to MillerCoors.

Provided there is no extension, Stone Brewing has 21 days to file a response.

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