16 June 2023TrademarksLiz Hockley

Molson Coors toasts EU win over bitter beer mark

Californian brewery loses appeal to revive ‘Stone’ EU trademark | Brewer argued that Brexit caused legal uncertainties that impacted proceedings.

Stone Brewing has lost an appeal at the EU General Court to overturn a ruling that its trademark ‘Stone Brewing’ was invalid on the basis of earlier marks belonging to rival brewery Molson Coors.

The Luxembourg court delivered the verdict to the California-based beer producer on Wednesday, June 14, dismissing its action and ordering it to pay costs to the UK arm of  Molson Coors.

Through its action at the court, Stone Brewing sought to reverse a 2020 decision of the Fourth Board of the Appeal of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) that upheld Molson Coors’ opposition to Stone Brewing’s application for EU trademark ‘Stone Brewing’.

That opposition, raised in 2016, was based on two earlier marks: the EU word mark ‘Stones’ designating goods in Class 32 for ‘beer, bitter beer and lager’, and the UK word mark ‘Stones’, also covering goods in Class 32 and relating to ‘bitter beer for sale in England, the Isle of Man and the counties of Clywd and Gwynedd’.

Brexit controversies

In its challenge to the EUIPO’s decision, Stone Brewing referred to its unsuccessful request in 2017 that proceedings regarding the mark be stayed on account of Brexit uncertainties. These legal uncertainties “affected the field of trademarks and justified the suspension of the proceedings before the Board of Appeal”, the firm argued.

The brewer also took issue with the evidence put forward by Molson Coors UK that its earlier EU trademark had been put to genuine use in the European Union, and contested the finding that there was a likelihood of confusion between the marks.

‘Unfounded request’

The court, however,  dismissed Stone Brewing’s claims that the decision over its mark could have been affected by Brexit, referring to the Board of Appeal’s finding that throughout the period relied on to prove genuine use of the earlier EU trademark, the UK was still a member of the EU.

Stone Brewing’s request for a stay in proceedings was therefore “unfounded” and “not based on legitimate grounds”, the court said.

It also found that the Board of Appeal was right in determining that Molson Coors had demonstrated genuine use of the earlier EU trademark, with numerous invoices confirming that the mark was used “on a very large scale and across the UK during the relevant period”.

Regarding a likelihood of confusion between the marks, the court confirmed that the Board of Appeal “was right in finding that the signs at issue had a high degree of visual, phonetic and conceptual similarity” and that the goods at issue were identical.

California clash

In March last year, a San Diego federal jury  ruled in favour in Stone Brewing in a separate trademark infringement battle with the US-headquartered Molson Coors. The court found that Molson Coors had infringed Stone Brewing’s ‘Stone’ trademark after rebranding its ‘Keystone’ beer to ‘Stone’.

Molson Coors was ordered to pay $56 million for causing consumer confusion. The beer giant has asked for a new trial and has argued that Stone could not prove any losses as a result of the branding.

Already registered?

Login to your account

To request a FREE 2-week trial subscription, please signup.
NOTE - this can take up to 48hrs to be approved.

Two Weeks Free Trial

For multi-user price options, or to check if your company has an existing subscription that we can add you to for FREE, please email Adrian Tapping at

More on this story

28 March 2022   A California jury has ruled in favour of Stone Brewing in its four-year trademark infringement dispute with Molson Coors over who was first to use “stone” branding in connection with beer.
22 April 2022   Stone Brewing has been ordered to stop using the slogan “Keep It Juicy” on its hazy IPA packaging following a trademark infringement complaint from rival brewer Sycamore.