A Stone IPA. Photo courtesy Stone Brewing Co.

A San Diego federal jury awarded Stone Brewing $56 million Friday in its trademark infringement trial against beer giant Molson Coors.

The lawsuit alleged that Molson Coors’ Keystone Light rebrand in 2017 confused customers by prominently displaying the word “Stone” on its packaging. The alleged infringement, attorneys argued, cost Stone, one of the stalwarts of the local craft beer scene, millions of dollars.

Attorneys for Molson Coors argued that the “Stone” nickname long has been a part of Keystone marketing. Customers, they said, were unlikely to mistake Stone’s craft products for a “budget beer” such as Keystone.

In an online statement, Stone co-founder Greg Koch celebrated the legal victory, calling it an “historic day for Stone Brewing, and for the craft beer industry.” He also offered “cheers to our fans, friends and supporters who believe in the good that craft beer brings. This is your win, too.”

“Molson Coors threatened our heritage, but we stood up to that threat. They will put the `Key’ back in `Keystone,’ ending their hostile four-year co-op of the Stone name,” he wrote.

Stone was represented by the law firm BraunHagey & Borden LLP, based in San Francisco and New York.

Molson Coors issued its own statement, in which the company said it would evaluate its appeal options.

“It’s been clear all along that there is no credible confusion between Keystone Light and Stone Scorpion Bowl IPA, Arrogant Bastard Ale or any of Stone Brewing’s other products,” the statement read.

Molson Coors also said the jury awarded Stone with “a fraction of what they were demanding.” The lawsuit, the company contends, “was not driven by consumer confusion, (but) that Stone Brewing has a $464 million debt to pay to their private-equity investors in 2023.”

– City News Service