Court Denies Stone Injunction Against MillerCoors

2019-04-18T10:12:49+00:00

ESCONDIDO, Calif. — A federal judge last month rejected Stone Brewing’s motion for a preliminary injunction in the craft brewer’s lawsuit claiming MillerCoors’ revamped packaging for its Keystone brand infringes on the craft brewer’s trademark.

In denying the injunction, U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez wrote that Stone failed to meet the requirement that a plaintiff must “demonstrate a likelihood of irreparable injury — not just a possibility — in order to obtain preliminary relief.”

“Stone falls short of establishing that absent a preliminary injunction, it would suffer irreparable harm,” Benitez wrote. “Stone has demonstrated that it has a moderately strong infringement claim against Miller, but not that it would suffer irreparable harm absent a preliminary injunction. This second finding alone is enough to deny Stone’s request for a preliminary injunction.”

In February 2018, Stone Brewing filed a lawsuit alleging MillerCoors’ 2017 “visual refresh” of Keystone infringes on Stone’s trademark and is likely to confuse customers about the source of Keystone beer. Miller’s “refreshed” can design took “KEYSTONE” and separated “KEY” and “STONE” onto separate lines, according to court documents.

In its answer to Stone’s lawsuit, MillerCoors stated it has advertised Keystone as Stone and Stones since at least 1995, a year before Stone Brewing was founded, and its use of Stone/Stones does not infringe on the craft brewer’s trademark.

Despite the court’s denial of Stone’s motion, executives at the craft brewery declared victory based on the ruling’s finding that Stone’s trademark infringement claim is “moderately strong” and that its trademark is “indisputable” with “protectable ownership.”

“This is a very big deal,” stated Greg Koch, Stone Brewing executive chairman and co-founder. “The court’s order confirms what we knew: that MillerCoors should be ashamed of what they have been doing. All along this has been a clear-cut infringement case, and now we can focus our resources on proving the significant damages done to the good name of Stone Brewing.”

Added CEO Dominic Engels: “We are pleased that the court recognized the validity of Stone’s infringement claims. MillerCoors has made hundreds of millions of dollars from rebranding Keystone in a way that infringes on our trademark. It also has hurt Stone and our brand. We look forward to presenting this evidence to the court at trial.”

MillerCoors issued a statement saying it was “pleased” with the ruling.

“Clearly the court saw this as we did, which is that the motion lacked merit,” the brewer stated. “We maintain we always used our Keystone trademark in an appropriate manner, and have easily refuted claims to the contrary.”

Stillhouse Spirits Sues Bacardi For $100M

WILMINGTON, Del. (PRNewswire) — The head of Stillhouse Spirits last month sued Bacardi Limited for $100 million for extortion, fraud and financial malfeasance.

In his lawsuit, Brad Beckerman, founder, CEO and chairman of Stillhouse, alleges the company is in “mortal danger” due to the financial malfeasance of Bacardi and the other financial partners. Bacardi, which acquired a minority stake in Stillhouse more than four years ago, is trying to coerce a buyout at substantially below market value, according to the lawsuit.

“Bacardi convinced Beckerman to provide it inside access and control of Stillhouse through a series of false representations and promises of support,” the lawsuit alleges. “To induce Beckerman to relinquish majority ownership and control of Stillhouse, Bacardi represented to Beckerman that it would in the future bring Stillhouse ‘in house’ by buying all of the equity of Stillhouse, including Beckerman’s, at a fair market price.”

The lawsuit claims that in February and March, the company saw record-breaking sales, and Bacardi has “schemed to take the company on the cheap,” and has “cut off funding for the company.”

In a statement to The Spirits Business, Bacardi said it has provided Stillhouse “with significant ongoing financial and other support” since acquiring its share of the company.

“Despite our substantial backing, management repeatedly failed to deliver on the company’s business plan and Stillhouse is now on the verge of bankruptcy,” Bacardi stated. “Under the leadership of CEO Brad Beckerman, the company has repeatedly failed to deliver the growth promised, and continued to spend beyond the board-approved budgets.”

Beckerman’s lawsuit characterizes Bacardi’s proposition as a “take-it-or-leave-it offer … for Stillhouse to transfer all of its assets to Bacardi for no upfront payment to the company or to any of the minority members.”

Hip-hop artist G-Eazy is an investing partner and co-creative director of Stillhouse.