Sunday, 18 October 2009 22:23

Rock Art Brewery Takes on Monster Energy

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October 18, 4:54 PMBirmingham Craft Beer Examiner - Guillermo Woolfolk

Rock Art Brewery, a small craft brewery based in Morrisville, Vermont, only employs seven people, but the owner has decided to take on Monster energy drinks and their team of lawyers in a trademark dispute. 

The trademark lawyers of Hansen Beverage Company, makers of Monster energy drinks, filed a "cease and desist" order against Rock Art Brewery's owner Matt Nadeau due to the naming of their product The Vermonster, a 10% barleywine style ale.  Hansen Beverage claims that the Rock Art product could cause confusion for their consumers and infringes on their trademark.  Hansen is also requesting that Rock Art pay for their attorney's fees because of this situation.  "The way the law is arranged, the holder of a trademark has to be very aggressive in defending it, even when it's overreaching," said Douglas Riley, Nadeau's trademark attorney, to the Associated Press. "If you miss a legitimate infringement, people will point out in later years that you weren't defending your properties. You can lose it if you don't defend it, so you err on the side of caution."

Most people with a small business like Rock Art would probably be afraid of an aggressive, big business like Hansen Beverage, but the Associated Press reports Nadeau believes "this is about principle.  Corporate America can't be allowed to do this, in this day and age. It's just not right."  Luckily, Matt Nadeau and Rock Art have a huge amount of craft beer drinkers that agree with him.  On Facebook, the group "Vermonters and Craft Beer Drinkers Against Monster" has almost 12,500 members and Twitter users have had over a thousand posts containing "monsterboycott".

The problem a lot of people are having trouble with is Hansen's claim of possible confusion.  Rock Art's The Vermonster is only produced in 22 oz brown bottles.  Monster energy drinks are sold primarily in 16 oz cans with a logo that does not even possibly resemble that of Rock Art's.  That, combined with the fact that beer and energy drinks are two different areas of sales and consumers, causes this to not sit well with the craft beer community.

Many trademark lawyers agree that this is a case that Hansen most likely cannot win.  The problem that arises for Rock Art is when you have to factor in the cost of fighting off big business like Hansen.  Nadeau runs a very possible chance of going bankrupt due to attorney fees and court costs if this continues.  This is where the everyday beer drinker comes in.  If you want to support Rock Art, contact Hansen Beverage Company (1-800-HANSENS) and express your feelings about their tactics.  You can also join in on the national boycott of Monster beverages, where the hope is that if Hansen feels enough decline in sales, they will back off.  This isn't just a fight over the word "Monster", it is a fight to support small business, which most craft breweries in the US are, and their rights to function in our economy.  Rock Art has every right to continue the use of the name The Vermonster, it is now up to the consumer to drive that point home.
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