Stone Brewing Co. has launched a lawsuit against MillerCoors alleging trademark infringement and unfair competition. Stone claims that MillerCoors’ new rebranding of its Keystone Light beer directly infringes on Stone’s registered mark and has the receipts to prove it.
Within Stone’s almost poetic complaint, it shows photos of Keystone’s new look and points out just how the new design makes the beer appear to be one of Stone’s craft brews. Stone registered its mark with the United States Patent and Trademark office back in 1998, and has been using the mark ever since. Keystone made its debut in 1989, but had only used its full name in its branding campaigns, prior to the basis of this action, of course.
Interestingly enough, in 2007, Keystone attempted to file an application for the mark STONES. This application was rejected because of its obvious similarity to STONE. This begs the question of why MillerCoors would attempt to repeat history, and rebrand itself with the word STONE?
While loyal beer drinkers may think to themselves that they would surely know the difference from a Keystone Light and a Stone Brew, Stone points to instances of confused consumers reaching out about Stone’s new “light beer” (referring to Keystone and not Stone). This consumer confusion is exactly what Stone must prove to win their trademark infringement claim. The complaint states, “If this gambit succeeds, a bar or restaurant patron asking for a tasty STONE® brew will be just as likely to receive Keystone’s watered-down imitation of beer in its place.”
Protecting consumers is one of the main goals of a trademark, and let’s hope the court agrees to protect us all from accidentally drinking the wrong beer.