It was just days ago that we were discussing Stone Brewing’s new campaign to jealously protect all uses of the word “stone” on alcohol branding. The one time advocate brewer claiming to stand up for craft brewing against “Big Beer” has since devolved into a corporate gorilla smashing up the USPTO to get trademarks cancelled and firing off cease and desist notices to small breweries. All this, mind you, as it also wages war on a second front with MillerCoors over Keystone’s rebranding as simply “Stone”. In that suit, MillerCoors complained that lots of breweries use the word “stone”, which appears to have set Stone Brewing off on its bout of aggression.
When Sawstone Brewing pushed back on a C&D and failed to work out an agreement with Stone Brewing, the latter initiated an attempt to cancel the former’s trademark. Sawstone complained publicly. And now Stone Brewing is busy complaining that the public is being mean to it as a result.
Stone Brewing published a lengthy statement on its website Monday night regarding its trademark dispute with Sawstone Brewing Co. in Morehead, Ky., saying that Stone has become the “subject of a vicious online harassment and smear campaign.”
In a newly published statement, Greg Koch, the CEO of Stone Brewing, acknowledged the company’s multiple trademark disputes, noting that “this kind of thing is just part of owning a brand name and a company identity,” but he claimed that Sawstone’s version of events is not how the situation unfolded.
We’ll get into that last bit in a second, but its worth pointing out that Koch’s claim that this is all somehow necessary due to owning a brand name is demonstrably false. MillerCoors itself argued against this, admittedly disingenuously. After all, while I think I’d argue that turning Keystone to Stone probably is too close to Stone Brewing so as to cause confusion, MillerCoors’ claim that lots of other breweries have used the word “stone” within their brands for a long, long time is absolutely true. And if Stone Brewing not only survived, but thrived, with all those other uses in existence, it negates completely the claim that Stone Brewing had no choice but to act as it has. Were that true, Stone Brewing wouldn’t be the behemoth it now is.
Now, on to Koch’s claim that Sawstone Brewing’s description of events wasn’t accurate… it’s all in the petty details. Essentially, Koch claims that this all started when Sawstone Brewing attempted to trademark its name and that Stone Brewing tried to amicably work out a settlement of the trademark issues over the course of a few months. In addition, Sawstone missed a couple of deadlines for which it had promised settlement proposals. And… that’s it.
All of which completely misses the point. Stone Brewing didn’t have to take this action at all. And while the reported claims of online stalking and threats sent to Stone Brewing are reprehensible if true, a public backlash to bullying behavior by a brewer that was supposed to be standing up to these types of corporate actions is perfectly valid. If Stone Brewing doesn’t like that version of the backlash, it can cease playing the bully. Unfortunately…
As for the trademark dispute, Koch said that Stone will not back down and that the decision will ultimately lie with the USPTO.
Well, then enjoy the continued backlash, you Arrogant Bastards.