20 May 2022

Sycamore Brewery sues Stone in trademark fight

USA | Oh no, craft brewer Stone is involved in a trademark dispute again, this time on the other side, as the accused. In a lawsuit, filed on 11 April 2022, Sycamore Brewing, a craft brewer from Charlotte, North Carolina, charges that Stone stole its trademark slogan, “Keep It Juicy”, which it uses to market its popular “Juiciness IPA”.

The complaint alleges that Stone uses the same catch phrase on packaging and promotions for its own new “Hazy IPA”, and it does so in the states, including North Carolina and South Carolina, where the two companies compete directly.

It all goes back to 2019, when Sycamore, a small but popular craft brewer (beer production 2021: 28,000 barrels), introduced its Juiciness IPA. It first used the “Keep It Juicy” slogan in 2020, a template it has since extended to its other labels.

Same slogan, pretty similar style (From court documents, posted on techdirt.com)

In August 2021, Sycamore obtained a registered federal trademark for “Keep It Juicy”. The same month Stone released its Hazy IPA. On its website, Stone describes the beer as a “groovy, juicy citrus bomb”. Its advertising slogan: “Keep It Juicy”

Sticker-over the offending slogan

A federal judge in North Carolina, on 22 April, issued a preliminary nationwide injunction, banning Stone from using the phrase “Keep It Juicy” on retail packaging and other promotions for its Hazy IPA beer, until the infringement suit is resolved. But the judge did not compel Stone to pull its existing Hazy IPA products from retail stores or out of distributors’ warehouses. Instead, Stone was asked to cover the infringing slogan with a sticker.

Stone has since complained that to sticker-over the offending slogan represents a “huge burden” and will hurt its reputation with distributors.

On 4 May, Stone told the court it already had pulled “and/or stickered” more than 85 percent of packaging subject to the order – that is more than 18,000 boxes at more than 100 distributors and retailers.

But, on 5 May, Sycamore filed a motion for contempt against Stone, claiming Stone was dragging its feet and barely doing the minimum to cover the labels. Moreover, it has done a botched job as it often only put stickers on one side of the boxes.

Meanwhile, on 13 May, Stone filed a counterclaim, alleging that Sycamore itself has “stolen” the “Keep It Juicy” tagline from the Connecticut-based craft brewer Two Roads, per the website brewbound.com.

As of now, a trial date has been set for 11 July.

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