Keystone brewer Molson Coors could still appeal the decision.
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Stone IPA
Credit: Courtesy of Stone Brewing

After years of legal wrangling, California craft brewery Stone has won its lawsuit against the beer giant Molson Coors — but though the jury's decision was unanimous, the victory wasn't necessarily everything Stone may have hoped.

On Friday, the eight-person jury ordered Molson Coors, maker of Keystone Light beer, to pay Stone Brewing $56 million in damages, agreeing that the Keystone brand had indeed infringed on Stone's trademark when its beer name was shortened to "Stone" in its advertising and on its packaging.

However, in ending the three-week trial, the San Diego jury also decided that the infringement was not committed purposefully, according to Reuters, and the ruling fell short of the $216 million Stone Brewing was seeking.

Still, Stone framed the ruling as a major underdog victory for America's ninth largest craft brewery going up against a competitor that produced about 200 times the amount of beer they did in 2020. "This is a historic day for Stone Brewing, and for the craft beer industry," said Stone co-founder Greg Koch. "MolsonCoors threatened our heritage, but we stood up to that threat. They will put the 'Key' back in 'Keystone' ending their hostile four-year co-op of the Stone name. Cheers to our legions of fans, friends and supporters who believe in the good that craft beer brings. This is your win too."  

Meanwhile, Molson Coors spokesperson Marty Maloney used the decision as an opportunity to take another swipe at Stone, insinuating that the smaller brewery had other motives for this lawsuit. "What we learned through this trial is that Stone Brewing's lawsuit was not driven by consumer confusion and that Stone Brewing has a $464 million debt to pay to their private equity investors in 2023," he was quoted as saying. In a statement to Courthouse News, Maloney added, "There are still several defenses that will be resolved by the Court and we are evaluating our options for appeal."

But in celebrating the win, Stone CEO Maria Stipp continued to push the case her company made throughout the trial: that the use of "Stone" wasn't just damaging, but purposeful. "From the moment our team saw Keystone's intentional theft of the Stone trademark, we believed this day would come," she said. "We are committed to doing everything in our power to protect the incredible reputation of the Stone brand and the passionate team who built it."