San Diego's Stone Brewing Defeats Beer Behemoth Molson Coors In Trademark Infringement Case

March 25, 2022

A case four years in the making, today a San Diego federal court ruled in favor of Stone Brewing in a trademark dispute filed against MillerCoors (now Molson Coors) for illegal use of Stone’s registered STONE® trademark after the company rebranded its  Keystone beer as STONE.

In February 2018, San Diego's Stone Brewing filed suit to defend its brand against one of the world’s largest beer conglomerates - MillerCoors. Known for being the antithesis to "Big Beer," Stone's suit alleged that MillerCoors rebranding its Colorado Rockies-themed Keystone beer as "STONE" was deceptive advertising likely to cause confusion with customers.
"From the moment our team saw Keystone’s intentional theft of the STONE® trademark, we believed this day would come," explained Stone Brewing CEO Maria Stipp. "We are committed to doing everything in our power to protect the incredible reputation of the Stone brand and the passionate team who built it. We’d like to thank the team at BraunHagey & Borden LLC for their representation of our case. They put their heart, souls and talent into it, and we couldn’t have asked for anything more than that.”

During the time of infringement, Molson Coors sold more than $1.7 billion of Keystone beer branded as STONE. The three-week trial took place before U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez and an eight-person jury, which awarded Stone Brewing $56 million in damages. Stone Brewing is the nation’s 9th largest craft brewery, yet in 2020 it produced 347,000 barrels of beer, only 0.5% the volume of beer produced by Molson Coors. Stone was represented by the law firm BraunHagey & Borden LLP, a litigation boutique based in San Francisco and New York. 

"This is a historic day for StoneBrewing, and for the craft beer industry," commeneted Stone Brewing Co-Founder Greg Koch. "MolsonCoors threatened our heritage, but we stood up to that threat. They will put the ‘Key’ back in ‘Keystone’ ending their hostile 4-year co-op of the Stone name. Cheers to our legions of fans, friends and supporters who believe in the good that craft beer brings. This is your win too."

Coors also responded to the ruling, claiming the company is evaluating its options for an appeal.

"It’s been clear all along that there is no credible confusion between Keystone Light and Stone Scorpion Bowl IPA, Arrogant Bastard Ale or any of Stone Brewing’s other products," reads a statement made by Molson Coors. "What we learned through this trial is that Stone Brewing’s lawsuit was not driven by consumer confusion, and that Stone Brewing has a $464 million debt to pay to their private equity investors in 2023. The jurors rejected the assertion that MillerCoors willfully infringed the trademark and awarded Stone Brewing a fraction of what they were demanding. There are still several defenses that will be resolved by the Court and we are evaluating our options for appeal. We appreciate the Court’s dedication to this case."