Greg Koch, the co-founder and executive chairman of independent craft brewery Stone Brewing, announced Monday the brewery has filed suit against MillerCoors in regards to a recent rebrand of the company’s Keystone Light beer.
MillerCoors’ new presentation of Keystone Light both in packaging and on social media is at the center of the lawsuit. The new branding appears to shorten the name from “Keystone” to “Stone,” something the independent craft brewer alleges could confuse consumers.
“Put the ‘Key’ back in Keystone.” Greg Koch, Stone Brewing Company
Stone Brewing released a 4-plus minute video featuring Koch. In it, he shows off a can of Keystone Light.
“Put the ‘Key’ back in Keystone,” Koch says in the video. “Stop using ‘Stone’ as a standalone word because when it comes as a standalone word in the world of beer it’s ours.”
“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,” Stone Brewing CEO Dominic Engels says in a press release.
A brief scroll through Keystone Light’s Facebook page shows examples of how the company is promoting the beer as ‘Stone.
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You can watch Koch’s full video message here. The brewery’s press release announcing the lawsuit is below.
Stone Brewing News Release
ESCONDIDO, CA (February 12, 2018) – Today Stone Brewing filed suit to defend its iconic STONE® brand against one of the world’s largest beer conglomerates, MillerCoors. Stone, known for being the antithesis to “Big Beer,” has long waved a flag of bold character, individualism and independence. The suit alleges that MillerCoors is trying to rebrand its Colorado Rockies-themed “Keystone” beer as “STONE.” The craft beer pioneer feels that it has no choice but to combat MillerCoors’ aggressive marketing moves, which abandon Keystone’s own heritage by falsely associating with the one true STONE®.
“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, MillerCoor 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.
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