Jury Awards Brewery $56 Million In Damages In Federal Trademark Case
According to a report from the Times of San Diego, a jury awarded Stone Brewing $56 million in damages in a federal trademark infringement lawsuit. The jury determined that Molson Coors—the American-Canadian brewing giant with headquarters in Chicago, IL—violated Stone Brewing’s trademark rights. The specific issue in this case was the re-branding of the Keystone Light product by Molson Coors. In this blog post, our Florida trademark & copyright infringement attorney provides a more detailed overview of the dispute and the decision from the federal jury.
Trademark Infringement Allegations: A 2017 Rebrand
Molson Coors owns several dozen beer brands, taking in more than $3.5 billion in annual revenue. One of the most well-known brands owned by Molson Coors is the mass market brand Keystone Light. In 2017, the company decided to rebrand Keystone Light—or at least shift the advertising. As of that year, Molson Coors started prominently displaying the word “stone” on its packaging instead of the word “keystone.” Soon after the new packaging hit stores, Stone Brewing—a craft brewery based in Escondido, California—filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Molson Coors. Stone Brewing argued that the rebrand of Keystone Light was likely to cause confusion among consumers. This case illustrates the concept of reverse confusion. This occurs when a larger more well-known brand (junior user) begins using a mark already in use by a smaller brand (senior user) and floods the market resulting in the likelihood that consumers will mistakenly believe that the senior user’s goods are associated with the junior user’s goods.
Trademark Infringement Defense: Different Target Audience, No Likelihood of Confusion
For its part, Molson Coors defended the trademark infringement lawsuit on several grounds. To start, the multinational brewing giant emphasized that it has long used the word “stone” on its Keystone Light packaging. The company contends that the beer itself has been referred to simply by the name “stone” and that there was not a fundamental rebrand of the product.
Additionally, Molson Coors also defended that trademark infringement lawsuit on the grounds that the ‘stone’ packaging was not likely to cause confusion in the minds of reasonable consumers. The brewing giant argued that Stone Brewing makes craft beers, whereas Keystone Light is a budget beer. In other words, there are different target audiences for the two products.
Jury Verdict: $56 Million in Damages for Trademark Infringement
The trademark infringement dispute went before a federal jury in Southern California. After reviewing the arguments raised by both the plaintiff and the defendant, the jury determined that trademark infringement occurred, however, it was not willful on the part of Molson Coors. In total, Stone Brewing was granted $56 million in damages, including compensation for brand damages, lost profits, and legal costs. Notably, Molson Coors stated that it does not agree with the decision. The company’s legal representatives issued a statement indicating that they are still considering their options for appeal. Further, Stone Brewing still contends that Molson Coors deliberately and willfully infringed on their trademark rights.
Contact Our South Florida Federal Trademark Infringement Attorney Today
At Perkins Law, our Florida trademark lawyer provides solutions-driven legal advocacy to clients. If you have any questions about a trademark infringement claim, we are here to help. Contact us now to arrange a completely confidential initial case review. With a law office in Boca Raton, we provide trademark, copyright, and patent law representation throughout all of Southeastern Florida, including in Broward County, Miami-Dade County, Palm Beach County, and Martin County.