Speculation is that Hansens aims to go into the alcoholic beverage business. The owner of Rock Art isn't all too happy and has been amassing support for his cause via social media. He's even placed a video statement on his website.
But to be fair, Hansens has a point in its statement/response to the outrage over their action.
In order to protect Hansen’s valuable Monster Energy® trademarks, Hansen is legally obliged to, and routinely sends, “cease and desist” letters to, and where appropriate, pursues litigation against, entities and persons who use or attempt to register similar trademarks for products that are similar or related to Monster Energy® products. A “cease and desist” letter was sent to Rock Art Brewery on September 4, 2009.In all the outrage and hysteria that's been thrown around the internet the past few days, I think a bit of perspective from Hansen's side is warranted. They have a major point that they have an obligation to protect the financial interests of their shareholders and take action where and when they feel it is appropriate. While I don't believe they have a case regarding infringement, it is reasonable to think that you'd believe me if I told you Hansen was coming out with alcopop energy drinks called "Vermonster". In other words, I don't think that the people who say this lawsuit is ridiculous have an unbiased opinion on the matter.
Hansen is a publicly traded company with an obligation to its shareholders to vigorously defend its valuable trademarks and intellectual property rights against dilution, potential infringement or confusion. Opposing the same or similar trademark applications is standard protocol for Hansen Beverage Company, as it is for all other consumer product companies.
I wonder if any of the breweries behind other monster-monikered beers (such as Brooklyn's Monster Ale, also a barley wine) have registered for federal trademarks and if the same events transpired. Anyone know?
Inspired by these events, Peter Egelston, the President of Smuttynose Brewing Co, recalled a few of his own trademark/branding experiences on their blog. It's actually a pretty interesting read, and a great reminder of the side of craft brewing that we often forget.
Moylans recently avoided a similar ordeal, facing trademark issues over its Kilt Lifter Scotch Ale, but chose to rename it to "Moylan's Scotch Ale" in most of its distribution area. It's keeping the iconic name in a few states (Oregon, Washington, California) and British Columbia.
Just another sobering reminder that the craft beer business we love so much is, after all, still business.