It’s probably too much to hope that those companies that have adopted trademark bullying as a course of action to change their stripes and take a more measured approach, but it is nevertheless disappointing and disheartening to see every new instance wherein they take aim at an invariably small business over some imaginary offense. For the bullying company that case is but one mark on a ledger or one chapter in an ongoing story, but for those small businesses these lawsuits can be hugely damaging, if not an existential threat.
Monster Energy falls into the category of repeat trademark bully offender, and like others of their ilk no amount of scorn or opprobrium from internet writers will deter them on their quest to rid the world of other companies of anything that might share a resemblance with their brand. The latest target is MPT Autobody, a South Carolina business which, it should be noted, does not sell energy drinks nor is named Monster. Did that give Monster Energy pause in going after them? Reader, it did not!
Techdirt’s Timothy Geigner has the inside story, as one of MPT’s owners reached out to him to detail what’s happened in this particular case. In this instance, MPT sought a trademark for their company’s logo, which features the color green and a stylized “M” — neither of which Monster or any company can claim ownership of in the abstract. As you may have guessed, Monster opposed the filing, and when MPT withdrew their application, Monster continued apace, sending the company a cease and desist over that same logo.
Geigner’s article features both the complaint and pictures of MPT’s logo, so you can get your own notions about the validity of Monster’s claims. For me, there is only similarity if you’re of the mind that you’re going to go after this and every other company with even a hint of resemblance, facts be damned. I’ve repeated this ad nauseum, and will continue to do so as long as this issue persists: there is no reasonable belief or expectation that there would be confusion between these two businesses, nor could you reasonably say that MPT was attempting to create any with their logo of choice.
But a choice is what Monster Energy has made: a choice to be the company that throws around its weight with small businesses that have little in the way of resources and wherewithal to fight back against a team of lawyers. The only charitable explanation would be that Monster earnestly believes that each and every one of these instances is actual infringement, which would betray a complete lack of understanding about IP law rather than malice. But that gives them too much credit; they know what they’re doing, and they should be judged as such. More’s the pity that so few are paying attention.