Calif. Court Denies MillerCoors’ JMOL in Trademark Case Against Stone Brewing

On Tuesday, the Southern District of California issued an order denying MillerCoors LLC Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law to in the case of Stone Brewing  Co., LLC v. MillerCoors, LLC

According to the motion, on March 25, 2022, a jury returned a verdict in favor of Stone Brewing on its claim of trademark infringement against MillerCoors. Following the verdict, MillerCoors filed the Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law challenging the jury’s verdict in favor of Stone Brewing. 

The court states that MillerCoors’ motion argues that there was no evidence that it acted willfully in the trademark infringement and no reasonable jury could find a likelihood of consumer confusion between the trademarks, that Stone Brewing was damaged by MillerCoors actions or that Stone was the first to use the STONE trademark at issue. The court stated that the jury found in favor of MillerCoors in regard to its willfulness argument and therefore did not address it. 

The order states that Stone Brewing presented strong testimony evidence contradicting MIllerCoors survey evidence for likelihood of confusion and states that a reasonable jury could have been persuaded by Stone’s survey evidence. Therefore, the court held, in respect to the likelihood of confusion argument, that the evidence offered by Stone Brewing and the visual similarities between the Keystone Light can and Stone’s trademark could lead a reasonable jury to find a likelihood of confusion, and thus, trademark infringement. However, the court did note that if it was in the role of the fact finder, and not the jury, it would not have been persuaded by such evidence. 

The court similarly noted that it did not find the proffered evidence by Stone Brewing overly persuasive to show that MillerCoors’ use of the mark caused a decline in sales but noted that a reasonable jury could find the evidence adequate. Stating that it cannot usurp the duty of the jury, the court declined MillerCoors motion in regard to its damages argument. 

Finally, the court also denied MillerCoors’ motion in regard to its argument that Stone Brewing was the first to use the STONE mark. The court stated that MillerCoors lacked evidence to show that it used the word “stone” or “stone” in its marketing campaigns and that a reasonable jury could find that Stone Brewing was the first to use the mark. 

Accordingly, the court denied MillerCoors motion but noted that it disagreed with the jury’s ultimate conclusion but not to an adequate level to give rise to a judgment as a matter of law against Stone Brewing. 

Stone Brewing is represented by Braunhagey & Borden, and MillerCoors is represented by Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, Snell & Wilmer, and Crowell & Moring LLP.