Stone Brewing has ‘moderately strong’ trademark claim against MillerCoors

California’s Stone Brewing has failed to secure an immediate injunction against MillerCoors to stop it from using its trademarked ‘Stone’ name, however the judge stated it had a “moderately strong” claim as the case moves to trial.

In a ruling on Wednesday (27 March), the US District Court in San Diego failed to grant Stone Brewing a preliminary injunction as it concluded that the brewer did not prove that it would be irreparably harmed without one.

In a 21-page decision, however, US District Judge Roger Benitez said that Stone Brewing had a “moderately strong” trademark claim against MillerCoors.

Benitez added: “Stone falls far short of demonstrating that it would suffer irreparable harm in the absence of the Court granting a preliminary injunction.”

“The Court agrees [with Stone], especially considering the marks incontestability, Stone® is entitled to the strong protection afforded to suggestive marks. Since Stone and Miller both produce a beer which is distributed nationally, a consumer is likely to encounter both within close proximity of the other, making it is reasonable to consider Miller a direct competitor of Stone.”

“Taking all the factors into account, the Court finds that Stone’s trademark infringement claim against Miller is moderately strong.”

Stone Brewing filed its lawsuit in February last 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 April, MillerCoors responded with an 82-page document, claiming Stone Brewing’s lawsuit was “misleading and ultimately meritless”.

Rather than placing greater emphasis on the world ‘stone’, MillerCoors claimed 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’”.

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

In response to this week’s court proceedings, Stone CEO Dominic Engels said: “MillerCoors has made hundreds of millions of dollars from rebranding Keystone in a way that infringes on our trademark. It also has hurt Stone and our brand.”

On Twitter, Stone Brewing continued: “The judge overseeing our case against MillerCoors and Keystone confirmed our primary claim: MillerCoors is infringing our long-held trademark.

“The court outright rejected MillerCoors’ primary defence that Keystone’s new packaging is unlikely to cause confusion. This is a milestone event. No pun intended. We’re heading to trial to prove that corporate beer has made hundreds of millions from rebranding Keystone.⁣

To any believer in independent craft beer, today is a good day.⁣ ⁣Onward.⁣ ⁣.”

MillerCoors is also fighting a legal battle with AB InBev, having filed a lawsuit against the world’s largest brewer over its “false and misleading advertising campaign” shown during this year’s Super Bowl.

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