Stone Brewing Sues MillerCoors for Deceptive Use of the STONE Brand

image of Greg Koch holding a can of Keystone Light courtesy of Stone Brewing
image of Keystone Light can courtesy of MillerCoors
image of Keystone Light can courtesy of MillerCoors

Keystone, the beer that we consumed when we were of a much younger age has decided to rebrand itself with a more prominent display of a wrapped text of KEY STONE on its latest cans. In doing so the brand owned by MillerCoors has been presented with a lawsuit filed by Stone Brewing.

Today, February 12, 2018, Stone Brewing filed suit to defend its iconic STONE® brand against MillerCoors and its Keystone brand. In the suit, Stone Brewing states that MillerCoors is trying to rebrand its low budget Keystone beer as STONE, though the complete can label does state KEY STONE, just in wraparound text as two words. In doing so Stone Brewing felt that it has no other recourse except to protect its brand and the confusion that it feels is being caused from the large brewer.

This will be an interesting lawsuit to follow since both brewers have marketed its beers for many years. However, Coors Brewing first marketed Keystone in 1989, seven years before Stone Brewing’s beginnings in 1996.

Below is a 4 minute and 45 second marketing piece that features Greg Koch, co-founder of Stone Brewing.

Here are additional details from Stone Brewing’s press release…

“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, MillerCoors 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.