The trademark battle between craft brewer Stone Brewing and brewing group Molson Coors concerning their Keystone brand will go to trial. U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez ruled a jury must decide whether the Keystone brand violated during a marketing campaign makeover the STONE® trademark of the Escondido-based craft brewer.
The judge found a triable issue remains on the “critical question” of whether there is actual consumer confusion by beer drinkers who think they are purchasing Stone Brewing’s craft beverages when picking up a pack of MillerCoors’ rebranded Keystone beer. “Evaluating all the factors and the evidence provided by the parties, the court cannot find plaintiff has, as a matter of law, demonstrated a likelihood of consumer confusion, although it is a close call,” Benitez wrote in his statement.
In 2018 Stone Brewing sued MillerCoors (in the meantime renamed to Molson Coors Beverage Co.), claiming “that MillerCoors is intentionally and deliberately trying to create confusion in the marketplace” by rebranding its Keystone line with a beer can redesign that separated “key” and ‘stone” on the word STONE (inside.beer, 12.2.2018).
At the trial, which is now set for October 2020, Stone seeks to halt the use of Keystone’s use of the STONE® trademark and to recover USD 1 billion in losses incurred by consumer confusion which benefited Keystone’s sales.
Stone Brewing CEO Dominic Engels welcomed the decision of the judge.“The court’s order allows the jury to rectify years of injury to Stone’s name and business. All of us at Stone are hopeful that #truestonevskeystone will have a meaningful impact on Stone and on craft beer as a whole.”
However, Molson Coors saw the advantages of Benitez’ statement more on the own side: “These two products look nothing alike, as the judge noted, and are competing for an entirely different consumer. There is no credible evidence that consumers are confused and we’re confident we will prevail when the case is decided by a judge and jury.”