Big brewing operations can sometimes be divisive, even ones with great senses of humor and solid reputations to match, like California’s Stone Brewing—the 10th-biggest brewer in the US. On the one hand, South Carolina is on the verge of making momentous changes to their beer laws, spurred in part to attract Stone Brewing in the brewery’s plans for eastern expansion. Indeed, the “Stone Bill” is awaiting the SC Governor’s signature as we type this morning. On the other hand, however, out west in Colorado, at least one small brewery appears to feel a bit differently about Stone. Initially reported on here, a recently-opened Boulder, CO brewery had selected the name “Kettle & Stone Brewing,” which Stone found likely to cause confusion with its brand. That CO brewery announced a new name this week, dubbing itself “Vindication Brewing,” suggestive of how it feels about the dispute.
That Kettle & Stone brewery trademark dispute, though, wasn’t a Big Brewer v. Little Brewer matter, as sometimes these things can be made out to be. Rather, Stone’s need to actively monitor its trademarks is a consequence of the smart steps Stone seems to have taken to carve out space and select a distinctive name in the first place, obtaining a federal trademark registration. To fuel unbelievable growth, like a $31 million eastern expansion plan, or to have an entire legislative effort named in your honor—something every brewer must look at with at least a tinge of awe and, deep down, maybe some good-natured envy—Stone’s continued success, or any brewery’s, flat-out depends on consumers’ ability to recognize them in the marketplace. Stone was first to the word Stone on beer, and they’re actively making sure no one else uses the word in a way that would cause confusion. We can’t fault them for that; just as no brewery wants to get a call about a potential trademark issue, no established brewery really wants to make that call, either.
We’re excited about the “Stone Bill.” In fact, watching Stone’s success as a fan from the outside, we get bright-eyed thinking about all the possibilities and opportunities for our own clients’ growth, as more and more consumers just keep falling in love with beer in all its forms and styles, a beautiful, beautiful thing. And, maybe that’s why we’re equally passionate about helping our own clients with brand protection, about carving out branding turf and then politely protecting that turf. After all, thanks to Stone’s continued efforts on the trademark front, all of us consumers know exactly who the “Stone Bill” refers to, and that’s the sort of successful branding we believe any brewery—be it new, established, and especially soon to open—might admire, applaud, and aspire to create.