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Monster Tools (left) vs Monster Energy (right)
Monster Tools (left) vs Monster Energy (right)

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Monster Energy gets a rare win in court over trademark infringement

Energy drink company Monster Energy has won a trademark lawsuit against Integrated Supply Networks (ISN), a maker of automotive tools and related goods.

Monster Energy ISN was selling products that had black and green coloured trade dress and using word marks similar to Monster's marks. Monster Energy filed trade dress infringement claims in March 2017 saying ISN's trademarks and trade dress were confusingly similar to Monster Energy's trade dress and federally registered trademarks. Monster Energy said 399 of ISN's products have a black and green-colored trade dress and use word marks similar to Monster’s marks.

The jury awarded no actual damages for the infringement, but awarded US$5 million in punitive damages against ISN after Monster Energy proved that ISN acted with malice, oppression or fraud.

This is a rare win for Monster Energy as it has been on a losing streak at court. Called a trademark bully by Timothy Geigner of Techdirt, Monster Energy is going after any company that has words, slogans or designs that bear even a bit of similarity to its trademark.

In December it lost a lawsuit against British drinks company Thirsty Beasts. Monster Energy claimed customers would confuse both Thirsty Beasts' slogan, "Rehab the beast" with its "Unleash the beast" line.

The UK Trademark Office ruled in favour of Thirsty Beasts, but Monster Energy appealed the decision.Thirsty Beasts won that appeal, but at a cost. The UK company had spent more than £30,000 in legal fees.

But Monster Energy is not just going after the little guy. It went toe-to-toe with the NBA (National Basketball Association) when it claimed the NBA team Toronto Raptors has a logo too similar to its “claw device mark”, and consumers would likely confuse Monster’s three vertical slashes with the NBA Toronto Raptors’ circular logo of a basketball with three horizontal raptor claw marks across it.

Monster Energy lost the case at the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS). The adjudicator presiding over the case said: “[The] mere similarity in the subject matter of the competing marks (for example the three-pronged claw-shaped devices with jagged edges) was not sufficient to establish visual similarity for the purposes of opposing the registration of a trademark.”

The adjudicator went on to add that consumer knowledge of both brands would mean that confusion would not occur.

This is just a sampling of the many cases Monster Energy got itself involved in over the years. It lost a case against an English pizzeria called Monsta Pizza. Monster Energy tried to convince the court that Monster Dip, a brand of industrial paint, might be mistaken for its highly caffeinated drinks. It even took on an online forum called MonsterFishKeepers to prevent the forum owner from filing for a trademark.

These are just a few of the many lawsuits Monster Energy has filed over the years to protect its brand. It can be seen as "active policing" of their intellectual property, but sometimes the links are so tenuous, and the brands which are sued so far from Monster Energy's energy drinks industry that copyright experts think there is little merit to what they claim.

Its latest win is also not comprehensive as jurors awarded US$5 million as punitive damages, and zero as damages for the infringement. This means Monster Energy suffered no actual damage and there is a possibility that Monster Energy may collect nothing, and might not even get an injunction against ISN selling its auto tools.

What do you think of "actively policing" your copyright like Monster Energy? Comment below and engage with us on Facebook.

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Mark Laudi

Mark Laudi

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