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Court denies retrial for US$56 million Molson Coors trademark case

Beer company Molson Coors must pay Stone Brewing US$56 million after a San Diego court threw out its request for a retrial over trademark breach.

Legal representatives for Molson Coors have failed to overturn a judge’s ruling that the beer giant must pay rival Stone Brewing a sum of £56 million for a trademark infringement.

This week a San Diego court upheld the decision, first made in 2018, that Molson Coors had violated Stone Brewing’s trademark rights by using the terms ‘Stone’ and ‘Stones’ prominently in its marketing campaign for Molson Coors’ Keystone beer product.

District Judge Roger Benitez said that Molson Coors was not entitled to a new trial or a court ruling in its favour. The court also rejected Molson Coors’ bid to cut or overturn the damages payment.

Molson Coors had argued that Stone Brewing was unable to provide sufficient evidence to prove that consumers would be confused by the advertising. Following the decision, a spokesperson for Molson Coors said the company disagreed with the ruling and is “evaluating its options”, including a potential appeal. Molson Coors had previously suggested that the legal action was driven not by consumer confusion but by the fact that Stone Brewing owed a US$464 million debt to its private equity investors and needed a way of raising the cash.

Sapporo-owned Stone Brewing first sued Molson Coors in 2018 claiming that its use of the term ‘Stone’ in its marketing caused consumer confusion. It said that Molson Coors had in fact rebranded its Keystone beer product in order to capitalise on consumer goodwill towards Stone Brewing. Part of the rebranding included shortening the beer’s name to Stone on its packaging.

In March 2022 a jury returned a verdict in Stone Brewing’s favour, ordering Moors Colson to pay US$56 million for the breach.

“This is a historic day for Stone Brewing, and for the craft beer industry,” said Stone Brewing co-founder Greg Koch at the time. “Molson Coors threatened our heritage, but we stood up to that threat. They will put the ‘Key’ back in ‘Keystone’, ending their hostile four-year co-op of the Stone name. Cheers to our legions of fans, friends and supporters who believe in the good that craft beer brings. This is your win too.”

Molson Coors has completed a series of recent acquisitions and investments including snapping up Kentucky whiskey business Blue Run Spirits and ploughing £16 million into UK brand Aspall Cyder, which it bought from the Chevallier Guild family for £40m in 2018.

However, it offloaded its Hooch, Reef and Hooper’s brands at the start of this year to Global Brands Limited, and shuttered the US arm of  CBD beverage business Hexo last December.



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