Stone Brewing is suing MillerCoors over "Stone Light"

Discussion in 'Beer News & Releases' started by Todd, Feb 12, 2018.

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  1. Todd

    Todd Founder (2,802) Aug 23, 1996 California
    Staff Moderator Fest Crew Society Trader

    As a follow-up to this thread, Stone Brewing is suing MillerCoors over "Stone Light" and is urging them to "put the Key back in Keystone."

    Stone Brewing Sues MillerCoors for Deceptive Use of the STONE® Brand

    ESCONDIDO, CA (February 12, 2018) – Today Stone Brewing filed suit to defend its iconic STONE® brand against one of the world’s largest beer conglomerates, MillerCoors. Stone, known for being the antithesis to “Big Beer,” has long waved a flag of bold character, individualism and independence. The suit alleges that MillerCoors is trying to rebrand its Colorado Rockies-themed “Keystone” beer as “STONE.” The craft beer pioneer feels that it has no choice but to combat MillerCoors’ aggressive marketing moves, which abandon Keystone’s own heritage by falsely associating with the one true STONE®.

    “Keystone’s rebranding is no accident,” said Dominic Engels, Stone Brewing CEO. “MillerCoors tried to register our name years ago and was rejected. Now its marketing team is making 30-pack boxes stacked high with nothing but the word ‘STONE’ visible. Same for Keystone’s social media, which almost uniformly has dropped the ‘Key.’ We will not stand for this kind of overtly and aggressively deceptive advertising. Frankly, MillerCoor should be ashamed.”

    The Complaint alleges federal and state causes of action for unfair competition, trademark infringement and related claims. “For two decades our team and our fans together have given depth and meaning to the Stone brand,” expressed Greg Koch, Stone Brewing executive chairman & co-founder. “Our fans have come to trust us to deliver consistently fresh, high quality beer. They trust that we’ll do so in a way that’s ethical and betters our communities, our planet and the entirety of craft beer. By deliberately creating confusion in the marketplace, MillerCoors is threatening not only our legacy, but the ability for beer drinkers everywhere to make informed purchasing decisions.”

    Never one to miss an opportunity to poke fun at Big Beer and its consumers, Koch added with a laugh “We all know Keystone is specifically designed to be as inexpensive, flavorless and watery as possible. We can’t have potential Stone drinkers thinking we make a *shudder* light beer. Or for our fans to think we sold out. MillerCoors needs to stop marketing its stuff using our good name.”

    Twice named as the “All-time Top Brewery on Planet Earth” by BeerAdvocate magazine, Stone Brewing continues to gain devotees, solidifying its commitment never to sell out to Big Beer. Meanwhile, according to Nielsen, the beer industry’s Domestic Premium category dipped four percent in 2017, equating to a $12.5 billion loss. Says Greg Koch, “No wonder MillerCoors is trying to misappropriate what it could not otherwise accomplish by itself.”

    Stone Brewing is represented in the lawsuit by Noah Hagey, Rebecca Horton and Toby Rowe of San Francisco litigation boutique BraunHagey & Borden LLP.

  2. herrburgess

    herrburgess (861) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina

    The word "KEY" is right under his fingers, though, right?
  3. raynmoon

    raynmoon (0) Aug 13, 2011 Colorado

    Good move, if you own the name you have to protect it, or else you'll lose it.
    Lahey, ericwo, mikeinportc and 8 others like this.
  4. lateralusbeer

    lateralusbeer (526) Feb 7, 2010 North Carolina
    Society Trader

    The marketing seems to be the much more eggregious issue here..."grab some Stones" etc.
  5. raynmoon

    raynmoon (0) Aug 13, 2011 Colorado

    Right. But I think what he means more that their advertising move is pushing ONLY the word "stone" and slowly separating the two: keystone, key and stone, etc.
  6. ypsifly

    ypsifly (0) Sep 22, 2004 Michigan

    He said they aren't doing it for publicity, yet there was a buildup to today's announcement that started last week. They could have quietly filed a motion to cease and desist. Going about it this way is marketing, no other way to call it.
  7. Kraz

    Kraz (0) Feb 12, 2018 Indiana
    Society Trader

    Well, power to them. I'm not a lawyer so I don't know their odds but it seems like what you should do, fight for your name.

    What I was curious about during all of this was is there a correlation between sales and this STONE marketing campaign?
    chrismattlin likes this.
  8. emannths

    emannths (0) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    Eh, MC's own images are just as bad:

    Still, a trademark dispute is a pretty weak way to "thrown down the hammer."
  9. chrisjws

    chrisjws (1,001) Dec 3, 2014 California

    Based on my layman understanding of branding and trademarks that sure looks like they have a valid case. Emphasizing the word stone on the label could definitely be argued as brand dilution if they aren't judged to be direct competitors. This isn't arguing over a word like IPA or ale, it's a company name. Whole Foods changed Mission Creek Brewery to Floodcraft over a mere cease and desist from Mission Brewery, so don't be shocked if this doesn't even go to the courts.
    Corrado42 and mikeinportc like this.
  10. Hoppedelic

    Hoppedelic (499) Dec 6, 2010 California

    They're separating the words to highlight Stone. Their marketing is trying to rebrand Keystone as Stone. Stone is doing the right thing here.
    Lahey, Corrado42, drtth and 10 others like this.
  11. Crim122

    Crim122 (0) Aug 4, 2014 North Carolina

    I feel like they wouldn't have done this if they didn't have a case. God Speed, Greg.
    Corrado42, Tdizzle, ericwo and 2 others like this.
  12. herrburgess

    herrburgess (861) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina

    Agree that they probably have a decent case based on how such things have gone in the past. (Shrug)
    mikeinportc and chrismattlin like this.
  13. Snowcrash000

    Snowcrash000 (1,630) Oct 4, 2017 Germany
    Moderator Society Trader

    Honestly, this seems like a pretty frivolous attention-grab to me, pretty disappointing after all the buildup of "dropping the hammer" :rolling_eyes:.
    Foyle, Loops, SunDevilBeer and 7 others like this.
  14. steveh

    steveh (1,228) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    You really gonna pick up a 30 pack of KeyStone Light mistaking it for Arrogant Bastard? :grin:

    I guess that in this day and age you really need to watch your tail, but isn't this sort of demeaning their customer base? "Honey, I got the Enjoy By... oh crap, this is KEYStone, not Stone! Damn Miller-Coors!" :rolling_eyes:
  15. lateralusbeer

    lateralusbeer (526) Feb 7, 2010 North Carolina
    Society Trader

    Keep in mind how few beer drinkers pay attention to our degree. If I asked my wife to grab me some Stone beer at the I 100% convinced she wouldn't be thrown off by "Grab some Stones!" marketing? Nope.
  16. i_run_far

    i_run_far (0) Aug 11, 2016 District of Columbia

    Stone is doing the right thing by defending their name but this comes off as a marketing tactic more than anything else and a real turn off for me.
    #16 i_run_far, Feb 12, 2018
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2018
    Foyle, Jugs_McGhee and JackHorzempa like this.
  17. IPAExpert69

    IPAExpert69 (360) Aug 2, 2017 Pennsylvania

    PUBLICITY STUNT, and it's a shame really. Stone makes some fantastic beers, and as a consumer the idea of anyone mistaking keystone light for a Stone Brewing product is honestly laughable.
  18. Leebo

    Leebo (0) Feb 7, 2013 Massachusetts

    Wait, I thought was Keith, stone.
  19. steveh

    steveh (1,228) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    You seriously wouldn't verify the beer you're asking someone to buy for you? You seriously don't think your wife doesn't know you'd never ask for a 30 pack of Keystone?

    Glad my wife knows I like good beer. :grin:
    ZebulonXZogg likes this.
  20. MNAle

    MNAle (0) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    He has to defend his mark.

    He doesn't have to conduct a big social media publicity campaign.
  21. Crim122

    Crim122 (0) Aug 4, 2014 North Carolina

    I mean of course WE beer drinkers wouldn't be duped but the average person might. Here is a notable intellectual property case:

    I know every day of the week that Adidas only has three stripes. But someone might not know that and be duped into thinking they're purchasing Adidas.
  22. lateralusbeer

    lateralusbeer (526) Feb 7, 2010 North Carolina
    Society Trader

    Well yes, mine does. But I really think we forget what an echo chamber we are. What percentage of craft beer drinkers go to online forums to talk about it? 1%? So Joe Average Craft Drinker, his wife remembers he likes Stone beer, she's at the grocery store, there's a case stack with GRAB SOME STONES on a big banner, the package says "15 'Stones," no she's not obsessing over it, she grabs some for the house because he mentioned the fridge was low. Easy.
    Lahey, TheOneTC, KarlHungus and 6 others like this.
  23. steveh

    steveh (1,228) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    By this example, hasn't Keystone been around a helluva lot longer than Stone?

    @lateralusbeer I get your point(s), but in this day and age my wife would probably call me first... but then again we do our shopping together, so I'm all old-school and I guess I never really worry about it.
  24. LifesAnesthesia

    LifesAnesthesia (706) Dec 17, 2014 Virginia

    I definitely see where Stone is coming from here. Highlighting the words stone in Keystone creates confusion in the market and I wouldn't put it past AB InBev to try to capitalize on Stone's name and reputation, let alone the craft beer movement to try and not only move some of their own product, but somehow confuse the market into thinking they are "craft".

    I think it's pretty clear anyone on this website wouldn't be duped by AB InBev's marketing but the average beer drinker might. Then again, I can't think of your average beer drinking even having Stone Brewing on their mind. Then again, Stone Brewing's name is trademarked and they have every right to fight what's occurring.
    chrismattlin and raynmoon like this.
  25. Norica

    Norica (469) Feb 2, 2006 Massachusetts

    Was the forklift broken?
  26. MostlyNorwegian

    MostlyNorwegian (0) Feb 5, 2013 Illinois

    FBarber, MikeWard and TongoRad like this.
  27. bgold86

    bgold86 (0) Apr 1, 2015 New York

    Whether this is frivolous or not, Stone needs to defend their trademark, otherwise someone else will do the same thing, and then someone else will do it as well etc etc
  28. AyatollahGold

    AyatollahGold (0) Nov 28, 2016 Indiana

    I agree with Stone. But I guess we'll see how deep their pockets are.
    bgold86 likes this.
  29. Oktoberfiesta

    Oktoberfiesta (0) Nov 16, 2013 New Mexico

    Thinking out loud here. But what if all those millions who drink the cheap stuff are intrigued enough by keySTONE that when they want to get into craft, they see something branded as STONE and pick it up. If anything, keystone could be giving them more sales.

    The other side as Greg put it. They don't want craft consumers to be under the impression that Stone is making cheap swill now.

    Good move but I could have done without a press release before the press release.
  30. drtth

    drtth (0) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Absolutely correct on both points, but he is being consistent in conducting the social media campaign. Nothing new about that.

    He's been publicly fighting against the relatively flavorless AALs and the business practices of big beer brewers for the entire history of Stone brewing.
    #30 drtth, Feb 12, 2018
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2018
  31. ADK46barfly

    ADK46barfly (0) Apr 29, 2017 New York

    If Moosehead can sue Adirondack Brewery over Moose Wizz root beer (and win), then Stone should definitely take legal action, especially since big beer thinks the little guy won’t or can’t (financially) do anything about it.
  32. AZBeerDude72

    AZBeerDude72 (0) Jun 10, 2016 Arizona

    Good for him, just watched the video and you can see they are going for the STONE aspect to confuse people etc. Sadly this will go know where and his pockets are not as deep, anyway cheers to Stone for at least fighting back.
    Corrado42 likes this.
  33. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus (0) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    I think their case is spurious, at best.

    IPAExpert69, Loops, Brolo75 and 2 others like this.
  34. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt (1,880) Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
    Society Trader

    "litigation Boutique" LOL.
  35. steveh

    steveh (1,228) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    Really? Based on the video that Stone put out you can see what Keystone is trying to do? Never mind that Koch is holding the can the way he wants you to see it. As always, 2 sides to a story -- maybe more.

    In all fairness, I can see Stone's argument -- to a point. But I honestly think it's more jumping on an opportunity than anything. I'd love to really know if the Miller-Coors marketing department was attempting to scam off Stone. Since their customer base is so far removed from "craft brewing," I'm terribly skeptical.
  36. Squire

    Squire (0) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Society Trader

    It occurs to me Mr. Koch & Crew have a much bigger problem if they believe consumers are actually going to confuse their brews with Keystone.
    Loops, Brolo75, AlcahueteJ and 3 others like this.
  37. GetMeAnIPA

    GetMeAnIPA (711) Mar 28, 2009 California

    If I was keystone I would be upset if people start confusing Stone with KeyStone. Imagine a keystone drinker getting a 12 pack of Stone IPA?
  38. thebeers

    thebeers (1,461) Sep 10, 2014 Pennsylvania
    Society Trader

    I was hoping they were gonna offer some new innovation for beer drinkers -- or at least a business innovation to help bigger craft companies like their own stay afloat in a crowded marketplace.

    This trademark dispute has more merit than the, what in my view are, frivolous claims by Dogfish Head. But it's still a major yawnfest deserving of zero social media and teasers. Make some beer already.
    Loops, JackHorzempa, Brolo75 and 5 others like this.
  39. zid

    zid (829) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Society Trader

    It's a little funny that this is an announcement of a lawsuit, but when it's craft against craft, every step has to be taken before it's socially acceptable for things to elevate to lawsuit status.

    Brewers have to call each other first, have a seafood lunch together, talk about canning costs, have a holiday together, perhaps jump to the Facebook campaign if things aren't working, then have interviews with beer websites if things get ugly... and the entire time talk about how nobody is suing anybody. Better not say lawsuit, or you're in trouble. Deny deny. Unless it's against "big beer," in which case, you can not only say it, but you can actually advertise that you're doing it.

    Double standards are a way of life. Just look at a beer spit take for instance. You can say that doing it is too cheap, but then still do it anyway regardless. Best of both worlds!
    ForbesyTVB, McMatt7, Loops and 10 others like this.
  40. emannths

    emannths (0) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    The problem is that they also advertise like this:
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