Craft beer company Stone Brewing Co. was awarded $56 million in damages by a San Diego jury in a federal trademark infringement case against beer conglomerate
The eight-person jury found MillerCoors’ infringement wasn’t willful. Stone Brewing attorney Noah Hagey confirmed the jury’s holding and the damages amount.
The Friday verdict caps off a years-long battle over whether MillerCoors, which is now known as Molson Coors, used the craft brewery’s trademarked “stone” logo to market its rebranded Keystone beer, causing consumer confusion.
MillerCoors changed the design of its Keystone Light beer in 2017 to prominently display the word “stone” across the can, separating it from “key,” which was in smaller font. The separated words were used in other advertisements as well.
Stone Brewing argued that MillerCoors has seen declining sales for Keystone for years and rebranded to capitalize off of Stone Brewing’s success in the craft brewing industry. Stone Brewing had asked for $216 million in damages as a result of consumers confusing the brands.
“Molson Coors threatened our heritage, but we stood up to that threat,” said Stone Brewing co-founder Greg Koch in a statement. “They will put the ‘Key’ back in ‘Keystone’ ending their hostile 4-year co-op of the Stone name.”
MillerCoors spokesperson Marty Maloney said in a statement that the trial showed Stone Brewing’s lawsuit wasn’t driven by consumer confusion and that the craft brewery held a large amount of corporate debt.
“The jurors rejected the assertion that MillerCoors willfully infringed the trademark and awarded Stone Brewing a fraction of what they were demanding,” Maloney said.
The court hadn’t resolved several of MillerCoors’ defenses and the company is evaluating options to appeal, he said.
MillerCoors had argued the brands were clearly distinct. It pointed to marketing material pre-dating the 2017 rebrand where “key” and “stone” were separated.
Consumers weren’t deceived because MillerCoors was trying to recapture market share from other economy beer makers like Anheuser-Busch, not craft breweries, the company argued.
BraunHagey & Borden LLP represents Stone Brewing. Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP and Crowell & Moring LLP represent Molson Coors.
The case is Stone Brewing Co. LLC v. Molson Coors Brewing Co., S.D. Cal., No. 3:18-cv-00331, jury verdict 3/25/22.