It’s rare that I call for an outright boycott of a product or company, but this is one of those cases where it is most definitely called for.
You see, up in the very small town of Morrisville, Vermont, there stands a very small brewery, producing only about 3,000-3,500 barrels of beer per year. This brewery started in the owners’ basement and grew to this small industrial building. It employs only 7 people besides the husband and wife team that owns it. This brewery is called Rock Art. They produce some awesome beers, some of which are very creative. They sell their beers at a very reasonable price (less than what they could get for them if you ask me, but I’m definitely not complaining). On their 10th anniversary, they made a 10% version of their flagship beer, Ridge Runner. They named this new barleywine The Vermonster
In another part of the country stands this giant beverage corporation. They are in the soda, juice, tea, and energy drink business. They do not make beer, but they are large and have a lot of money. This company is called Hansens Beverage Company. They own the popular Monster line of energy drinks.
Recently, Rock Art filed for a trademark for The Vermonster name nationally (it was already trademarked in Vermont since its creation). Shortly after the filing, they received an impersonal cease and desist order from the lawyers representing Hansens. The order told them that they must stop using the name as it infringes on their trademark of “Monster Energy Drink”. Now, the term “monster” is by no means trademarkable. The way trademark law works is that you have to protect your trademark or you lose it. Once confusion exists, the trademark is nullified. Examples of this are Kleenex tissues or Bayer’s trademark of the term Aspirin. Those words became so commonplace for any tissues or for any headache medicine that the trademark was dilluted. While I understand Hansens right to protect their trademark from becoming dilluted, they have lost all PR points in their methods.
The reasoning Hansens gives for the trademark infringement is incredibly weak. They claim that there is major overlap between the energy drink market and the beer market. Perhaps that is true if you consider beer as being only Bud, Miller, and Coors. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Rock Art’s market does not overlap with the energy drink market. They also claim a type of synergy between the beer market and the energy drink market. Again, this is all marketing lingo and completely false. There is absolutely no mistaking a beer which comes only in a 22 ounce brown bottle for an energy drink that comes in a large can. There is no mistaking the different labels. Finally, there is no mistaking the term “Vermonster”, a play on the name of a state, for the term “Monster”.
This whole thing reeks of Monster Cables and their frivilous lawsuits against anyone and anything they can go after. They have lost many of these because the justice system decided they were too ridiculous in their claims, but they knew they were the big guys in the case and could probably bully the little guy around. That is exactly what Hansens is doing here. Rock Art is a small brewery. It takes a lot of time and overhead to run a brewery. Rock Art only distributes to a couple of states with the vast majority of their distribution being in Vermont. They don’t have the reach that Hansens has.
So, because of all this and because Rock Art is such a great brewery owned by some great people, I urge you to boycott Monster Energy Drink. In fact, I would extend that boycott to all of Hansens’ products. This is purely corporate bullying and greed. Rock Art has a case, but doesn’t have the wallet to defend their case. In a country founded on justice for all, they should get what’s theirs and not have to fight a long expensive legal battle.
How can you help?
- Buy Rock Art beer if it’s sold in your state or nearby (this is the most important).
- If you’re on Twitter, tell @MonsterEnergy how shameful this is.
- Tell @RockArtBrewery how great they are and show them some support.
- Use the hash tags #monsterboycott and #ISupportRockArt in your tweets.
- Join the Facebook group Vermonters and Craft Beer Drinkers Against Monster.
- Contact Hansens and tell them what you think.
- Contact Monster Energy Drink and tell them what you think.
Since you’re probably looking for more information on this debacle other than my simple blog post, here are a few links to various news outlets reporting on the story.
Finally, here’s a great video of Matt Nadeau, the owner of Rock Art, explaining the situation.