One of my favorite days of the week is Tuesday. On Tuesdays I and many of my beer peeps do #TopBrewsTues. On this day I make a lineup of beers I will enjoy that evening. Yesterday, 07/21/2020 I tweeted out the five beers I would have that afternoon and evening. I then tweet each individual beer. Midway through the process a friend tweeted me a link about a small brewery in Morehead, Kentucky.
The tweet included a link to an article on PorchDrinking.com. That article was titled “Stone Brewing Disputes Trademarks with Kentucky Brewery & 100 Other Brands”. The gist of this article is that Stone Brewing is claiming trademark violations from Sawstone Brewing Company and as many as 100 other breweries for use of the word ‘stone’ in their trademark. This seemed to be an over the top action from Stone Brewing to me, especially after reading the article, tweets, and the footprint of Sawstone Brewing Company.
Sawstone Brewing Company
I went to the Sawstone Brewing Company Facebook page. This brewery is in Morehead, Kentucky and happens to be the only brewery in town. The entomology of Sawstone Brewing’s name comes from the building material of the building the brewery is in. Sawstone refers to bricks literally cut from blocks of limestone with a saw. These bricks were referred to as Sawstones. The only two buildings in the country built with these bricks are in this part of Kentucky.
Sawstone Brewing Company opened for business in 2019. They brew their beer with a 3 bbl system and brewed 100 bbls of beer during their first year of operation. Sawstone Brewing does not have bottling or canning capability. All their sales are done out of their taproom. Unfortunately for Sawstone the Corona virus hit which led to a closure of their brewery and led to the laying off 80% of their staff. Leaving the operation of their brewery at risk. Now, they must deal with the headache and potential loss of their brewery. They did not need the headache of trademark infringement actions on top of that.
Stone Brewing’s Position
When I first read this article, I was infuriated. Why would Stone Brewing go after a 3 bbl brewing facility that produced 100 bbls of beer in their first year of operation. There is no way their trademark would infringe on Stone’s trademark because splitting Saw & stone does not make sense to anyone who lives in the area. Furthermore, the only way to get beer from Sawstone Brewing is to go to the Brewery. Sawstone has a specific meaning for that region of Kentucky. When I saw the splitting of Saw & Stone, I immediately started thinking about the Stone Brewing vs MillerCoors lawsuit.
One of the issues the Judge in the case decided was the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) declared that Stone Brewing’s trademark was legal and binding. In MillerCoors counterclaims, a belief that Stone Brewing did not question the new MillerCoors advertising strategy in a timely manner. This may have triggered a response by Stone Brewing now to aggressively defend their trademark. I think my belief will be made clear by Stone Brewing’s statement given to PorchDrinking.com.
Stone Brewing’s Statement to PorchBrewing.com
“Since 1996, Stone has protected its brand by registering its trademarks like STONE® and STONE BREWING® with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. When other businesses try to register trademarks that are confusingly similar to Stone’s trademarks, Stone regularly opposes them at the PTO. This is a routine part of being a trademark owner.
In this case, Sawstone applied for a nationwide trademark registration to use “SAWSTONE BREWING CO.” to sell beer. Stone filed a petition to cancel that registration with the Patent and Trademark Office. As Stone told the PTO, Sawstone’s mark is confusingly similar to Stone’s registered trademarks. The PTO will eventually decide whether the mark can be registered.
There seems to be some confusion out there about whether Stone has sent “cease and desist” letters to various folks, including Sawstone. To clarify, we have not filed a lawsuit in court and a cancellation at the Patent and Trademark Office is not a “cease and desist.” A cancellation is an administrative proceeding where the PTO decides whether a trademark can be registered. We are already in discussions with Sawstone to see if we can reach an agreement that works for both of us.”
I think it is important that the public understand that a cancellation was requested, not a Cease & Desist order. The PTO will decide on all the cancellations made by Stone Brewing. One cancellation I think that will be enforced was mentioned in the PorchDrinking article. Blue Point Brewing Company’s “Juicy Bastard”. Arrogant Consortia is a subsidiary of Stone Brewing. Stone Brewing’s trademark includes the Arrogant Bastard portfolio which includes Arrogant Bastard, BA Arrogant Bastard, and Enter Night Pilsner. Blue Point naming one of their beers “Juicy Bastard” may in fact violate Stone Brewing’s Trademark. Again that’s up to the PTO and doesn’t stop Blue Point Brewing until the decision is made.
In the midst of a #TopBrewsTues beer night, I initially thought that Stone Brewing was acting the ‘bully’ and picking on Sawstone Brewing Co. With the clarity of a night’s sleep and a hearty workout I believe Stone is doing these actions to protect their trademark as they approach the upcoming Stone Brewing vs MillerCoors court trial.
Stone Brewing remains in a court case that goes to trial in October 2020, slightly more than three months from now. The damages requested by Stone Brewing in this case have increased to one billion dollars. The action described above are, in my opinion, a means of strengthening their case prior to the trial. I also believe Sawstone Brewing Company has no intent of splitting Saw from Stone and marketing their beer that way. There is also a good chance that the PTO will dismiss cancelling Sawstone’s trademark in that even the most junior Craft Beer drinker would not equate Stone Brewing’s trademark with Sawstone’s.
I honestly believe Stone Brewing has no malicious intent to ‘squash’ small independent Craft Beer breweries. Furthermore, I believe Stone Brewing is vigorously defending their Trademark as is required by law to keep the Trademark. I am not sure if Stone Brewing would be open to this suggestion. I will make it anyway.
Stone Brewing used to have a program that provided support to small Independent Craft Beer breweries. I do not know if that program still exists. I do know that Stone Brewing should consider providing support to those small Independent Craft Beer breweries. It was a good idea then, and it still is now. Not so much as a balm for pain those breweries are going through now due to these Trademark Cancellations. Do it also for how hard it is for them to survive the COVID-19 pandemic as well. I am huge fan of Stone Brewing, I believe they will do the right thing.