Hansen Beverage Co., the maker of MONSTER energy drinks, has settled its dispute with Rock Art Brewery, Vermont microbrewery, regarding Rock Art’s use of the name “VERMONSTER” in connection with a barleywine.
The story played out in the media as a “David vs. Goliath” narrative, and many small businesses rushed to the aid of Rock Art, in some cases, pulling MONSTER energy drinks from their shelves.
Regardless of whose side you come down on, this story illustrates two interesting points. First, it underscores the importance of registration. Although Rock Art certainly comes across as the little guy in this story, it’s interesting to note that Rock Art has a pending trademark registration for VERMONSTER, with the mark scheduled to be published for opposition.
Second, and more apparent in the media, is Rock Art’s successful use of social media to generate support for its cause.
“It’s phenomenal,” said Matt Nadeau, who owns the Morrisville brewery with his wife. “It happened so fast. That’s what’s just amazing about this new power of traditional media, combined with social media, what tools that we have as Americans to fight against big power.”
Nadeau said he had been told by five trademark attorneys that he could probably win in court, but that fighting for the name would likely bankrupt him.
Nadeau aired the dispute on the Internet, framing it as an example of a large corporation trying to squash a small business owner. Word of the dispute prompted stores in Vermont, New York, Maine and Connecticut to pull the energy drink from their shelves, Nadeau said.
“It struck a nerve with everybody when they saw and heard the story,” Nadeau said. “They were like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m not confused by these products. What do mean this guy’s going to lose his business if he decides to fight for the name that’s legally his?’”