Make us your home page

Monster energy drink maker battles brewer of Vermonster beer

MORRISVILLE, Vt. — Forget David and Goliath. This fight's between Matt and Monster.

The maker of Monster energy drinks has taken aim at a Vermont brewery that sells a beer called Vermonster, ordering it to stop selling, advertising and promoting the craft brew because the name could confuse consumers.

The energy drink maker, Hansen Beverage Co., wants tiny Rock Art Brewery to stop using the name Vermonster on the barley brew and to compensate it for its attorneys' fees.

Matt Nadeau, who owns the brewery with his wife, Renee, said he has been told by five trademark attorneys that the law is probably on his side — but that proving it through lengthy litigation could bankrupt him.

"This is just about principle," said Nadeau, 43. "Corporate America can't be allowed to do this, in this day and age. It's just not right."

The beer is made at Rock Art's small warehouse brewery in Morrisville, which employs seven people, and is sold in 22-ounce brown glass bottles. It hit the market in 2007 and is now sold in Vermont, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut and Arizona.

Based in Corona, Calif., Hansen sold more than $1 billion worth of Monster drinks last year. The products carry a distinctive three-line logo designed to look like claw marks.

The dispute began last month, when Diane M. Reed, a lawyer for Hansen, sent an e-mail message to Nadeau's attorneys saying the brewer would "undoubtedly create a likelihood of confusion and/or dilute" Hansen's trademark.

Nadeau contacted Reed to say the products are in two different markets — beer and energy drinks — and offered to surrender any rights to use the name on an energy drink. According to Nadeau, Reed said that's not Hansen's concern; rather, Hansen wants to enter the alcoholic beverage market.

"I said, 'Too bad. I'm already here,' " said Nadeau. "I've been here. And I'm already brewing beer."

Such warning letters aren't unusual in trademark disputes.

"The way the law is arranged, the holder of a trademark has to be very aggressive in defending it, even when it's overreaching," said Douglas Riley, Nadeau's trademark attorney.

"If you miss a legitimate infringement, people will point out in later years that you weren't defending your properties," he said. "You can lose it if you don't defend it, so you err on the side of caution."

Riley said he's in discussions with Hansen representatives.

Monster energy drink maker battles brewer of Vermonster beer 10/16/09 [Last modified: Friday, October 16, 2009 9:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa Bay small businesses give Tampa B+ for regulatory climate


    In a recent survey about small business sentiments toward state and local government policies that affect them, Tampa Bay ranked at No. 25 out of 80 — a B+ overall.

    Tampa Bay ranked No. 25 out of 80 in a recent survey about how small business owners feel about state and local government policies that affect them. | [Times file photo]
  2. Seminole Heights restaurants face struggles amid killings, post-Irma

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — The neighborhood's hip circle of popular, well-regarded restaurants is feeling the squeeze in the wake of a recent killing spree. And the timing is rough.

    Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe has been taking precautions in light of the Seminole Heights killings: keeping the lights on all night and having employees walk to their cars in groups.
  3. St. Pete-Clearwater holding food, supply drive for hurricane refugees


    CLEARWATER — St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and Allegiant Air are holding a food and supply drive for the Hispanic Outreach Center in Pinellas County. The event, which will benefit refugees displaced by Hurricane Maria, will be held Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the airport at 14700 Terminal Blvd.

    St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and Allegiant Air are hosting a food and supplies drive Tuesday for refugees displaced by Hurricane Maria. | [Times file photo]
  4. Tallest building in Pinellas County in search of a new name

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — The name "Priatek" is gone from Pinellas County's tallest building, perhaps to be replaced by that of a much better-known company new to the Tampa Bay area.

    The Priatek name is off of downtown St. Petersburg's tallest building.
 [LARA CERRI  |   Times.  2015]
  5. Estuary wins pier design contest for the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway extension

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — And the winner is… Estuary.

    Voters overwhelmingly supported a pier design called Estuary for the $200-million extension of the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway in Tampa.
[Courtesy of AECOM]