USA, CA: Stone Brewing sues MillerCoors over Keystone Light rebrand
Californias Stone Brewing Co. has filed a lawsuit against MillerCoors over its emphasis of the word stone in its Keystone Light rebrand, calling it a surprisingly bold and disconcerting appropriation of its own name, The Drinks Business reported.
It follows the rebranding of MillerCoors Keystone Light beer to emphasise the Stone rather than the Key in its name, which Stone Brewing says demonstrates intention to create confusion in the marketplace with their own brand.
Filing a lawsuit on Monday, Dominic Engels, Stone Brewing CEO, claimed that Keystones rebranding is no accident, and that the big beer company had tried to register their name years ago but was rejected.
Now its marketing team is making 30-pack boxes stacked high with nothing but the word STONE visible, he said. Same for Keystones 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.
Stone Brewings lawsuit was accompanied by a YouTube video featuring Greg Koch, co-founder and executive chairman of Stone Brewing, who describes the actions of MillerCoors as surprisingly bold and disconcerting, stating that in the world of beer the name Stone is ours.
My partner Steve Wagner and I started the company 22 years ago, he said. At Stone we have always prided ourselves on going our own way. We have developed into a unique entity that Im enormously proud of and I feel privileged to be part of the wider craft community. This heritage that we have spent so many years to build has been threatened, right out in the open.
Perhaps I feel I have no other choice. Big beer has been flat or declining and the have gone out into the craft beer world and made acquisitions. They found people who are willing to sell out, unlike us. They know they cant buy Stone. They can obfuscate, they can co-op our brand and good name, or at least they can try. We believe Miller Coors is intentionally and deliberately trying to create confusion in the marketplace for their keystone brand and that is why we are suing them.
Koch added: You can end all of this right here and now by one simple move that reinforces your brand that youve built, Koch said in the video. Put the Key back in Keystone. Stop using Stone as a stand-alone word. Its ours.
However MillerCoors media relations manager Marty Maloney is reported to have dismissed the lawsuit as a publicity stunt.
In a statement, he said: This lawsuit is a clever publicity stunt with a multi-camera, tightly-scripted video featuring Stones founder Greg Koch. Since Keystones debut in 1989, prior to the founding of Stone Brewing in 1996, our consumers have commonly used Stone to refer to the Keystone brand and we will let the facts speak for themselves in the legal process.
Founded in 1996, Stone Brewing, based in Escondido, was a pivotal member of the US craft beer movement in the late 1990s, producing a number of highly hopped beers, including Arrogant Bastard, and encouraging consumers away from so-called big beer styles of lager.
Since then, craft beer has boomed, although sales now naturally slowing, while big beer has struggled to retain a grip on the market with sales of some of the biggest brands falling flat or in decline.
In response, many big companies have acquired craft breweries. In the US, AB InBev has bought Houston-based Karbach Brewing Company and Virginia-based Devils Backbone, following earlier purchases of Goose Island, Blue Point, Elysian and Golden Road, while MillerCoors bought a majority stake in Georgias Terrapin Beer Co. in 2016 to name a few. Globally, AB InBev has bought London-based craft brewers Camden Town Brewery and Italian craft brewer Birra del Borgo.
Most recently, London Fields brewery was bought by Carlsberg for about £1 mln in 2017, and Heineken completed its takeover of Lagunitas. Londons Meantime was bought by SABMiller for £50 mln, then sold to Asahi in 2016.
Last October, the Brewers Association launched a tongue-in-cheek crowdfunding campaign entitled Take Craft Back in a bid to raise US$213 billion to buy brewing giant AB InBev. Nearly $4 million was raised.
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