A small Utah distillery has been pulled into an expensive legal fight with a large national brewer, over the use of the word “stone” in its name and a winged creature on its label.
Holystone Distilling in Murray is one of nearly 100 U.S. companies — from small breweries and bars to restaurants and pizza joints — that have been targeted by Stone Brewing Co. for unauthorized use of its trademark.
Earlier this year, the California-based beermaker began issuing trademark cancellation requests against companies that use “stone” for alcohol-related business and products. Stone Brewing, which holds the trademark for its Arrogant Bastard Ales, also is targeting companies that use the word “bastard.”
Holystone co-owners, Mike and Barbie DeShazo, said they have spent about $15,000 in legal fees on the issue.
For Stone Brewing Co. to prevail, the brewer would have to prove that Holystone’s name, logo or product lineup was “diluting or causing confusion” in the market.
“There’s no way we are in competition with them,” Mike DeShazo said. “No one is going to confuse my vodka with their beer in the liquor store. They’re just being big bullies.”
Stone Brewing Co. has three higher-alcohol IPA’s that are sold in select state-run liquor stores in Utah. And its Buenaveza Salt & Lime Lager, which is below 5% alcohol-by-volume, is available in grocery stores.
Holystone opened in 2019 and head distiller Ethan Miller has so far produced four spirits — including a gin, a grape-based vodka, absinthe and Shochu, a lower-alcohol, white whiskey.
The Holystone bottles feature a winged logo, which, according to the Stone Brewery trademark claim, closely resembles the gargoyle on its beer labels and advertising.
Besides the Utah distillery, Stone Brewing’s trademark complaints have been filed against an array of companies and products from E & J Gallo’s “Sette Stone” wine to the Stoney River Steakhouse and Grill in St. Louis. From Touchstone Brewery in California to Stoner’s Pizza Joints in Georgia Florida, South Carolina and Texas.
Notably absent from the list, said DeShazo, is Firestone Walker, the 5th largest craft brewery in the country.
DeShazo believes the catalyst for the aggressive legal actions is a larger billion-dollar lawsuit Stone Brewing has against MillerCoors, the makers of Keystone beer.
In February of 2018, Stone Brewing filed suit after MillerCoors tried to rebrand its Colorado Rockies-themed “Keystone” beer as “STONE.” A trial is set for October 2020, where Stone seeks to recover what is says is billions in lost sales because of the infringement.
MillerCoors has countered that the lawsuit is flawed, since Stone Brewing has not gone after dozens of other craft breweries with stone in their name.
Going after these other entities, said DeShazo “bolsters their case” the next time Stone Brewing goes before a judge.
“What it means in the real world,” said DeShazo, “is that people have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to protect their business.”
And, added Barbie, “most of them don’t have it and are going to go under.”
There’s a bit of irony in this David and Goliath story, said Mike DeShazo.
Stone Brewing once was “the little guy taking on the big man,” he said. “Now it is hurting small businesses for no particular gain.”