Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Rock Art Brewing Should Send Flowers to Monster's Lawyers
Be honest. How many of you had heard of Rock Art Brewery in tiny Morrisville, Vermont at this time last week?
This small brewery was plodding along like many of the craft brewers in this country. Making some pretty good beers, building a loyal following of beer geeks and fighting for shelf space against companies that can afford to run ads during weekend football games.
Then some lawyers from Hansen Beverage Co., which markets Monster Energy Drinks, decided to come to the rescue. You see Rock Art has been selling a brew called The Vermonster for the last couple of years. Hansen says that could confuse consumers and Hansen says it has plans to launch an alcoholic drink under the Monster label. They say they have to defend their trademark.
Jackpot. The good folks at Rock Art Brewery are suddenly real life Davids in a battle against a big time Goliath. In addition to Monster, Hansen also markets Hansen Natural Sodas, Energade sports drinks and Rumba juice drinks. In 2006, the company signed a deal for Anheuser-Busch distributors to handle its line up. Manufacturing is handled by a series of independent bottlers under license.
Twitter has been twittering. There is a Facebook boycott against Monster picking up steam. And just about every beer blog in North America is jumping on the story.
It just may be that Rock Art will have to knuckle under because the legal fight would drain resources they just don't have. Hansen literally has more lawyers than the Rock Art folks have employees. That's the way the legal system sometimes works in the U.S.
But the public relations system sometimes works in an opposite and remarkable fashion in this country. Rock Art Brewery has gained more in attention than they could have hoped for in the next 10 years if the Hansen lawyers had just left things alone.
I'm willing to bet that Vermont bars are ordering as much of Vermonster as Rock Art can ship. Can a bigger distribution deal be far behind? God bless the lawyers.