A rose by any other name might smell as sweet but does a beer by another name taste as good? Beer drinkers could soon find out as Rock Art Brewery might have to change the name of its Vermonster brew.
Owners Matt and Renee Nadeau were in shock when they received a letter three weeks ago from a lawyer representing Hansen Beverage Company, the makers of Monster energy drink.
The "cease and desist" letter demands Rock Art stop selling its Vermonster beer, drop its effort to get a federal trademark for the name, and pay Hansen's lawyer fees. The letter says Monster has worked hard to establish its brand and Rock Arts use of the name Vermonster "will undoubtedly create a likelihood of confusion and/or dilute the distinctive quality of Hansen's Monster marks."
Rock Art consulted several lawyers who all agree the microbrewery would win the legal battle over the name. The problem is the legal fees start at $65,000. It is money Rock Art does not have. The lawyers have advised the Nadeaus to think about what they stand to lose if they go to court against a company reportedly pulling in $600 million dollars a year.
"When I pledged allegiance to this country as a kid in gradeschool I don't remember the end of it saying "and justice for all who have the deepest pockets,'" says Matt Nadeau. "You got five people saying I'm right, I don't think it should be coming to the point where they take everything."
Rock Art is already getting support from other Vermont companies. The owners of the Beverage Warehouse in Winooski have decided to pull all Monster products from their shelves, even though it is their number one seller in energy drinks.
"We've known Matt and Renee for quite some time, they've been a great small local Vermont company and even though it's going to cost us money not to sell Monster we've got to support our local small business owners," says George Bergin, co-owner of the Warehouse.
The boycott is quickly expanding. As of Friday afternoon Pearl Street Beverage in Burlington removed all Monster products, including drink coolers, from its store. A handful of other businesses were considering doing the same after getting calls from The Beverage Warehouse.
"It helps a lot yeah, it's nice to get that kind of support," says Nadeau.
Nadeau called the lawyer representing Hansen Beverage Company and asked what the conflict was, since Rock Art is not in the energy drink business. The lawyer allegedly told Nadeau Hansen wants to get into the beer business.
Nadeau responded with "Well too bad, I'm already here!"
Nadeau says he now knows what the biblical David felt like as he faces his own Monster of a giant. He sent a response letter offering to stay out of the energy drink business if Hansen drops its pursuit of his Vermonster beer. He is now waiting for their response.
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