Brewery Owner Stares Down, Whups Monster In His Closet

Score a victory for the little guy. Matt Nadeau, the owner of the Rock Art Vermont brewery, which was slapped with a lawsuit by the sue-happy makers of the Monster energy drink for brewing a beer called “Vermonster,” has gotten the bullies to step off.

WCAX in Vermont reports:

Rock Art lawyers have been in negotiations with Monster lawyers and late Wednesday afternoon the two sides came to an agreement. Rock Art gets to keep ‘The Vermonster’ name as long as it stays out of the energy drink business.

Nadeau is pleased with the victory and says he would like to see more trademark reform.

“We’re so happy and appreciate all the support,” Nadeau said in a phone interview from his home, Wednesday night. “It would be wonderful to take this momentum and look at the next step. A little bit of reform. I understand big corporations have built their business, but the small guy needs to be able to fight a reasonable battle.”

Kudos for Nadeau for refusing to back down. Maybe this will inspire some of the other companies Monster’s parent, Hansen, is suing harassing for no reason.

A Monster Win for Rock Art [WCAX Vermont]
(Photo: phototaker)
(Thanks, Amy!)

Comments

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  1. AllanG54 says:

    You mean Monster Cable hasn’t sued Monster Energy Drink? Now that would be fun to watch.

  2. boshaus says:

    And don’t forget Monster Cable going after blue jeans cable. [www.audioholics.com] . There’s some fierce fighting going on for that Monster name.

  3. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    What, no super-caffeinated wine?

  4. Naame says:

    I’m very happy it turned out well for him.

    However, I couldn’t help but be reminded by Monster’s response that big companies these days are way too focused on preventing any new competition from arising rather than focusing on actually competing with them strictly by the use of providing quality products and services and competitive prices.

  5. Duckula22 says:

    I would have agreed to nothing, and I would have still won. And I would have gotten into the energy drink business, just to show ‘em.

  6. Tim says:

    Rock Art gets to keep ‘The Vermonster’ name as long as it stays out of the energy drink business.

    Wow, what a novel concept. If you have a trademark, others can use that similar names in completely unrelated businesses. Huh. That should be the law …

    Oh wait. It is.

    • lihtox says:

      @TCama: I think “gets to keep” should be read “gets to keep…without being sued for it.”

    • RPHP says:

      @TCama: Kind of and kind of not. A really strong trademark may be found to have rights even in a product category they do not currently compete in. For instance Coca Cola probably has rights across all categories. For example say someone (not coke) starts a company selling packing boxes and calls the company Coca Cola Packing boxes – this would likely infringe on Coke’s mark because Coca Cola is so recognizable that if you saw a company selling Coca Cola packing boxes you would assume they were associated with the drink company.

      Coca Cola though is the typical example for these hypos because it is one of the few companies that is so big that it gets that type of recognition.

      Other companies (even large ones) are certainly confined to certain categories for example Delta – airlines, faucets, and dental companies are all different companies.

      That being said I remember an interesting (possibly disturbing for some) case where McDonald’s went after a dentist named McDentist and won. I would think this is different than the coke example because the dentist only used the Mc part of the McDonald’s name! However, McDonald’s claimed that Mc was so identified with them that many could get confused.

      Anyway, point stands that for very very recognizable marks they may span many or all categories even without officially registering or selling items in those categories. For most marks though they will be confined to the product category that they sell.

      • DoubleEcho says:

        @RPHP: ” However, McDonald’s claimed that Mc was so identified with them that many could get confused.”

        Nah, no one would ever try to exploit that!

        • madog says:

          @DoubleEcho: Just let your sooooouuuullllll glooowwww!

        • lihtox says:

          @DoubleEcho: I’d think McDowell’s would be sued because of the golden arches; if a restaurant were just called “McDowell’s” without the logo, then McDonald’s case would be much weaker. (And yes, I know it’s from “Coming to America”.)

          • omgwtflolbbqbye says:

            @lihtox: Especially since McDonalds would be fighting every single Irish pub in the country, and well, if there’s one thing the Irish are good for, it’s the fightin’!

            And stout…

          • GitEmSteveDave_FeelsLikeABurningAngel says:

            @lihtox: No, those aren’t arches, they’re “arcs”.

      • treimel says:

        @RPHP:

        I agree with your analysis 100%, but I think it’s also worth pointing out that Coca-Cola has marketed branded products far afield from beverages–I still recall the Coca Cola rugby shirts that Macy’s tried to sell years ago.

      • Tim says:

        @RPHP: True, completely true. And “monster” is much closer to “delta” on that spectrum than it is to “Coca-Cola.”

  7. ElizabethD says:

    I am honestly so happy about this. David, meet Goliath. Goliath, go to your room.

  8. m1k3g says:

    I don’t understand what these stupid corporations think they’re going to achieve with these baseless lawsuits. Personally, I haven’t bought anything from Monster Cable for several years since they started this idiotic behaviour and I definitely won’t be buying any ‘Monster’ energy drinks. The bad publicity is only hurting, not helping, them.

    • lihtox says:

      @m1k3g: IANABusinessman, so I have very little idea what I’m talking about here, but I wonder if this has partly developed from the “protect it or lose it” nature of trademark: companies have to protect their trademark against legitimate infractions, which means they have to hire a lawyer to keep an eye out for infractions, and the lawyer wants to look good so he sends letters to borderline cases. What would happen if the US made it harder for companies to lose their trademark, or at least their primary trademarks (product names and logos; maybe catchphrases like “I’m lovin’ itâ„¢” don’t deserve the same level of protection), then smaller companies wouldn’t have to hire that lawyer, and this nonsense would die down.

      Or maybe the company has just decided to become a “trademark troll”, trying to cash in. Or maybe it’s both: a trademark lawyer, wanting to look good, talks his bosses (who wouldn’t mind an extra revenue stream) into going the trademark-troll route.

    • Skaperen says:

      @m1k3g: It’s a lawyer scam to extract more billable hours from these companies. I don’t know which I hate more.

    • redskull says:

      @m1k3g: Seems like the companies that squawk loudest about this type of thing always sell stuff nobody wants in the first place.

      Kind of like how the sh!ttiest house in the neighborhood always has the most “No Trespassing” signs in the dilapidated yard. Who’d want to trespass there?

      • RPHP says:

        @redskull: Coca Cola is pretty diligent about protecting their marks and they don’t sell stuff no one cares about. It is just not posted as much here because people either do not infringe on the mark as much because it is well known or if they do they have very week arguments against coke and back down.

  9. weedpindle says:

    Hey, Ben & Jerry’s has had a concoction for years called the Vermonster. It’s about 3 gallons of ice cream in a big bucket. Guess the energy drink scum didn’t want to play with the big boys.

    • aloe vera says:

      @weedpindle: I was just going to mention that. And also note that Ben and Jerry’s (or Unilever, for that matter) aren’t a$$holes enough to go after this guy, either.

    • lihtox says:

      @weedpindle: They still do. Our college music group gets a Vermonster or two from the local Ben and Jerry’s during the annual alumni reunion, every year (pretty much) since 1997. The buckets are a more recent addition; when we first started, they’d bring it out in a big baking pan (which were better IMO, giving access to more people at once).

  10. robocop is bleeding says:

    Good Guys Win!

    So when’s the victory party?

  11. gggtur says:

    I’ll drink to that!

  12. Skaperen says:

    I have trademarked the name “NS” and want to pursue a lawsuit against “MoNSter” to have make them stop using my name in the middle of their name.

    I would have asked “CoNSumerist” for help, but they are violating my trademark, too.

    And my brother trademarked “ST”.

    :-)

  13. Hobz says:

    “Rock Art gets to keep ‘The Vermonster’ name as long as it stays out of the energy drink business.”

    Ummm, yeah but what about Monster staying out of the beer business? I hope he got that agreement, otherwise whats to stop Monster from coming back to ask Rock Art to stay out of the beer business cause they are in it now?

    • cmdrsass says:

      @Hobz: Exactly. Vermonster “wins”, but it’s only temporary until Monster Energy gets into the alcohol market which they have been planning to do for awhile. Vermonster is just a small complication on the way. They were hoping to bully them into handing over their trademark to clear the way, otherwise Vermonster will have a valid trademark infringement claim against Monster Energy.

      • MrEvil says:

        @cmdrsass: Monster is distributed by Coca Cola in several markets although aparrently Anheiser Busch (I know I butchered the spelling) also has some sort of deal with them.

        But yeah, I would totally have made Monster staying out of the beer business a condition of them staying out of the energy drink business.

        And seriously, Monster sucks. The only energy drink that I find remotely palatable is Bawls.

      • DragonThermo says:

        @cmdrsass: I agree. Just as Budweiser made, if memory serves me correctly, a beer with caffeine-like stimulant herbs. The objective was to get drunk but not pass out. :-)

        However, if Monster Energy weren’t such jerks, they could have partnered and released a Monster Energy Drink flavored beer and called it “Hard Vermonster”. Everyone would have been happy and rich, instead of angering a lot of people and costing them money for no reason.

        But then they’d get sued by the company that makes “Mike’s Hard Lemonade” because they own the trademark for the word “Hard”.

    • elizass says:

      @Hobz: Hansen already owns a trademark for Monster on beer products. It is category 32. Rock Art can’t do anything about it.

      What these comments show is how stupid people are about trademark law.

      Monster HAD to threaten legal action to protect their intellectual property. If they didn’t, they would be considered negligent in the future for more serious infringement issues. Active protection is absolute necessary. The truth is Monster never probably planned to sue. They just need to send out these infringment letters to all potential infringers to protect its property. I guess most Consumerist readers aren’t trademark savy and don’t know how trademark law works. Which is pretty obvious because everybody simply ignores that the USPTO organizes beer and energy drinks into the same category. Since Beer only has a typical 5-8% alcoholic content, it is not strong enough to fit under the International Category 33, “Wines & Spirits”; it is International Category 32, “Light Beverages.” Anything in Category 32 that might potentially infringe on Monster’s trademark – a soda, an energy drink, a girly wine cooler – Hansen needs to protect themselves against.

      It’s funny, because most of you wouldn’t have a problem with this situation being the other way around. It’s not David vs. Goliath. It’s a large corporation doing what they need to do to protect their intellectual property, just like any other corporation would.

      I personally was hoping Hansen would run Rock Art out of business. I’m always disgusted when a small corporation tries to cry to the media, and profit off media exposure, based on making blatant and false generalizations about a far more successful company.

  14. Mackinstyle says:

    What about that Monster employment assistance site?

    Come to think of it, do those sites ever have the real jobs that they advertise, or is it all just 2 year diploma and below stuff?

    • katia802 says:

      @Mackinstyle: I’m still waiting for just ONE response from any of the advertised jobs on Monster. Only been 3 years now, my last job came off Craigslist, lol

  15. lehrdude says:

    Why can’t he STILL make an energy drink if he wants and call it something else???

    …Maybe an instant energy drink called The Vermont-stir

    • RPHP says:

      @lehrdude: I think they mean he can not make an energy drink and use the same mark he is using on his beer. Of course if he makes an energy drink and uses a different mark for it that would not be prohibited by this agreement.

  16. coss3n says:

    Something tells me Monster never planned on Rock Art fighting back. Their claim was utterly groundless, and they were just counting on Matt to roll over and avoid the legal expenses. Score one for small business owners with balls!

  17. angryneo says:

    /drinks to that!
    /high fives!

  18. thesadtomato says:

    Once again: we have Vermonster beer, where’s the Masshole ale?

    • Sanspants says:

      @thesadtomato: I don’t think there’s enough pun. Maybe “Masshale”? Actually, that pretty lame. Sorry for this post.

      • Sanspants says:

        @Sanspants: Wait! What about “New Haleshire”?

      • thesadtomato says:

        @Sanspants: There’s no beer related pun in “Vermonster.” I’m not going for pun, the connection is what people in New England call each other. I.e., I’ve always called a denizen of Vermont a “Vermonster,” someone from Massachusetts a “Masshole.”
        Connecticrotchians.

        • madog says:

          @thesadtomato: Funny. I call people from New Jersey “dicks”.

          (so many states to chose from there, sorry New Jersey-ites. It’s not all of you, it’s the orange tan, muscle bound, greased hair, tank top wearing, Jersey Shore whores I dislike! Not the “Get them Stephen David” normal(ish) people. So I was mostly kidding.)

        • Sanspants says:

          @thesadtomato: Gotcha. I’ve never heard Vermonster before this. I’m from Boston so I’m well aware of Masshole. I really like the Connecticut one there.

  19. tinyhands says:

    I like to think that it was my harshly worded email to Hansen’s that pushed them over the edge. As it is nearly Oktoberfest, I will gladly accept a 6er of their Hell’s Bock.

    • MikeHerbst says:

      @tinyhands:

      Personally, I think it was MY harshly worded email to Hansens.

      On the other hand, on my calendar, Oktoberfest ended 3 weeks ago, so I don’t know what you’re on about…

      • tinyhands says:

        @MikeHerbst:
        Point taken. The local oktoberfestivities (small-O, if you prefer) begin later and continue into November in many southern states. (ref: http://www.wurstfest.com)

        Although I believe we are both entitled, I would be willing to split that 6-pack with you, but I cannot negotiate the Bock.

  20. justsomeotherguy says:

    The damage is done… Ive kicked the monster habit. Fuck ‘em.

  21. Tim says:

    You know, there’s a village in Canada called Mount Stewart.

    Mount Stewart -> Mount Stew – > Mountstew -> Montstew -> Monster!

    Sue the village!

  22. jetsaredim says:

    I say it’s not just a win for the little guy, but also for common sense.

  23. anim8rjb says:

    Monster should be more concerned about making their products not taste like shit.

  24. nstonep says:

    That “settlement” is bullshit. So the dude can’t cook up an energy drink and call it something else (brocaine!)? Man those are some shitty lawyers right there.

  25. MEoip says:

    The people who buy their product (i’m going to use a mean stereotype) don’t look at context they don’t see that the story was negative they simple see a story and think it’s cool to drink something that was on TV.

  26. Starfury says:

    I think I’ll start a business and put Monster in the name. It won’t have anything to do with energy drinks, cable, or job hunting.

  27. Damocles57 says:

    I wonder if Rock Art Vermont brewery uses Monster Mash when making its beer. I wonder if ASCAP would object if he wrote about his Monster Mash. And, at this time of year, it might be a graveyard smash.

    I wonder if Monster Trucks need Monster Fuel (energy or alcohol) for their performances.

    And from Wikipedia: “The term monster refers to a being that is a gross exception to the norms of some ecosystem. A person referred to as a monster is taken as exceptionally evil, grotesque, unreasonably strict and uncaring, sociopathic, and/or sadistic.”

    While I often laugh at Wiki’s definitions of many words or phrases, it seems they got this one right as it applies to Monster Energy.

  28. Jack T Ripper says:

    There is actually nothing wrong with Monster defending their trademark. They didn’t have to defend it so aggressively, but sending cease and desist letters are fine for them to do.

    I worked for a company once that got a cease and desist letter from Syracuse University because our company name was two words starting with S and U. Customers commonly referred to the company as SU! with an exclamation point. Syracuse University claimed to have a trademark on the initials SU and we were violating their trademark. Talk about BS. You can’t trademark letters of the alphabet and not allow anybody else in the world to use them. We weren’t even remotely the same type of brand, but the wusses that ran SU! backed off anyway and we stopped using it in our publications. I’m sure all we would have had to do is push back a little and they would have backed off just like Monster. All you have to do is defend your trademarks a little in order to prove you are serious about keeping them.

  29. KilgoreTrout__XL says:

    Good news. Also, I’ll never drink that monster poison again, which is probably good news for my health.

  30. Daniels says:

    Doesn’t Brooklyn Brewery also make a “Monster” ale? I feel like it’s their barleywine.

  31. Patrickstt says:

    I can’t wait for the epic showdown that is coming between the two companies most notorious for trademark harassment… Monster Energy v. Monster Cables

    They’re both Monster! What happens if someone tries to drink their overpriced HDMI cable or pours energy drink into their $3K TV?

  32. eyesack is the boss of the DEFAMATION ZONE says:

    “Rock Art gets to keep ‘The Vermonster’ name as long as it stays out of the energy drink business.”

    Wow, talk about trying to save face. Does anyone seriously think that the owner of a microbrew is going to want to switch paths and start marketing bile-flavored snowboarder bait?

  33. iron_chef says:

    I’m going into the Energy Beer category.