Monster Energy Buys A Brewery; Trademark Lawsuits Are Almost Sure To Follow
Did you all just hear that? That tiny, nearly silent series of screams you hear all around you? Well, that was the entire craft beer industry crying out in fear and pain. Why? Well, because Monster Beverage Corp announced that it is going to be a brewery.
Energy drinks maker Monster Beverage Corp (MNST.O) said on Thursday it had agreed to buy craft beer and hard seltzer maker CANarchy Craft Brewery Collective Llc for $330 million in cash, marking its entry into the alcoholic drinks market.Monster said the deal would add alcoholic brands Cigar City, Oskar Blues, Deep Ellum, Perrin Brewing, Squatters and Wasatch brands to its beverage portfolio and not include CANarchy's restaurants.If you're in the craft brewing industry and you're not dismayed at this news, then you don't know Monster Energy. This is the company that has taken trademark policing to caricature levels. If you need examples of this, they are legion. Monster Energy went after an autobody shop for using the letter M and the color green in its branding. Monster Energy opposed a teen's trademark application despite the branding being totally dissimilar. Monster Energy opposed the trademark for a pizza chain because it named itself Monsta Pizza. And on and on and on.So why should this concern the brewing industries? Well, for starters, Monster Energy has attempted in the past to oppose and threaten liquor companies for the crime of having an "M" in their branding. Here is one brief snippet I wrote at the time in that post about Monster opposing a trademark application for Murlarkey Distillery:
To start, the two companies operate in different markets. Yes, both serve liquid for consumption, but one makes an energy drink, while the other is selling liquor, such as vodka. Those are distinct markets and not easily confused during the purchasing process.With this acquisition, the above statement goes away in many respects. Suddenly, Monster is in the alcohol business. This lends weight to its ability to argue even more than it did before that there might be brand confusion in its attacks, even if those attacks remain frivolous. But even putting the Monster brand aside, take the brands in the acquisition itself. What does it mean, given that Monster now owns Oskar Blues Brewery, for Oscar's Brewing Company? Or any of the several different brews that are branded with the word "Oscar"?And that's just taking one of the brands and taking the most obvious guesses as to where Monster Energy could get aggressive. As readers here will know, Monster goes well beyond the obvious targets and gets really, absurdly creative for who it thinks is infringing on its trademarks.It's not a sure thing that this acquisition is going to be a nightmare for the craft brewing industry, but all of Monster's history of aggression sure points us in that direction.