Molson Coors asks for new trial after $56 mln loss in Stone Brewing trademark case

The sign on the Coors brewery is seen in Golden, Colorado February 12, 2014. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
  • Molson Coors says Stone did not prove confusion, lost sales
  • Stone Brewing asks to reconsider whether Molson acted in bad faith

(Reuters) - Beer giant Molson Coors asked a San Diego federal court on Thursday to throw out a $56 million verdict by a jury that said in March that Molson's "Keystone" branding infringed Stone Brewing Co's trademark.

Molson requested either a new trial or a court ruling that the verdict was unjustified, arguing that Stone could not show any consumer confusion or establish that it suffered any losses.

A spokesperson for Molson Coors said Friday that it remains "confident" in its case and "committed to seeing it through in the courts."

Stone Brewing, meanwhile, asked for a bench retrial Thursday on its allegations that Molson Coors used the "Stone" name in bad faith, which could entitle it to increased damages if it wins.

The brewery and its attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

Escondido, California-based Stone Brewing sued what was then MillerCoors in 2018, arguing its marketing of Keystone beers that focused on the words "Stone" and "Stones" without "Key" caused consumer confusion and infringed its trademarks.

Stone Brewing told the court that Molson Coors had rebranded Keystone to capitalize on consumer goodwill for Stone, which was then one of America's largest independent craft breweries.

A jury returned a $56 million verdict for Stone Brewing in March.

Molson Coors told U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez on Thursday that the verdict could not stand because Stone Brewing "could not identify a single person who actually bought Keystone thinking it was made by SBC" or "provide any evidence that it lost even one sale" from the Keystone branding.

The filing also said Stone Brewing failed to disclose at the time that Japan-based Sapporo had offered to buy it for $450 million, belying the brewery's argument that Keystone's marketing had sent it into a "death spiral," in Molson Coors' words.

Sapporo U.S.A. announced in June that it would acquire Stone for $168 million, in a transaction that was completed in August.

Stone Brewing told the court in a separate motion that Molson Coors withheld communications that could have proven it lacked a good-faith belief that it was using the "Stone" name legally.

The case is Stone Brewing Co v. Molson Coors Brewing Co, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, No. 3:18-cv-00331.

For Stone: Noah Hagey, Doug Curran, Jeff Theodore and Forrest Hainline of BraunHagey & Borden

For Molson Coors: Jon Bunge and Dan Lombard of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, Kent Goss and Valerie Goo of Crowell & Moring

Read more:

Molson Coors owes Stone Brewing $56 mln over 'Stone' branding - jury

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Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Reach him at blake.brittain@thomsonreuters.com