Monster Energy vs. BevReview.com


Update 10/15/09: Consumerist.com, owned by Consumer Reports, has picked up on our story… Monster Energy Trains Legal Guns On Beverage Review Website


Here on BevReview.com, we not only like to review beverages (it’s sort of in our name), but also speculate and discuss trends & patterns we often see in the industry. We don’t claim to be experts on the matter, but hopefully, we give you something to think about every now and then.

Monster Energy vs. BevReview.com

Monster Energy vs. BevReview.com

And while we’ve been reviewing beverages in various capacities since 2001, something interesting happened last week. Apparently, a company didn’t like what we were doing and decided to send their lawyers our way. Fun stuff!

Here’s the context… I received what appeared to be a legitimate message from a law firm last week, submitted via a web-based contact form attached to my personal discussion forums, TannerWorld Junction. (Without actual mail headers, we cannot confirm if this message is authentic, but we have our hunches.) The message was written in regard to a beverage review I wrote in March 2007 and posted on those forums, in a time before we formally launched BevReview.com.

Monster Energy

Monster Energy
(Photo by Steve Tanner, March 2007)

The complaint referred to this review of Monster Energy — which can also be found cross-posted here on BevReview. Just so you know, Monster Energy is owned by Hansen Beverage Company. Read the original review for yourself and see what you think.

Monster Energy review on TannerWorld.com

Original review via TannerWorld Junction
(Source: forums.tannerworld.com)

For those interested, here’s the text of the complaint, received via e-mail on Wednesday, October 7 at 9:31 a.m.

Name:
Legal
E-mail Address:
Legal@ce-ip.com

Comments:

Re: Hansen Beverage Company Trademark Infringement

To Whom It May Concern:

As I am sure you are aware, Hansen Beverage Company (“Hansen”) is responsible for the production of the Hansen brand juice, teas and energy drinks and the Monster brand energy drinks. Relative to this business, Hansen owns many valuable designs, trademarks, trade dress and copyrights, which it uses to identify and market its Hansen and Monster brand products (“the Hansen Marks”). The Hansen marks are of great value to Hansen, as they are used to indicate that goods or services are affiliated with and monitored by Hansen. Considering this, every time the Hansen marks appear in the marketplace, Hansen’s good name and reputation are on the line.

Hansen Beverage Company

Hansen Beverage Company
(Source: hansens.com)

Legally, it is the responsibility of trademark owners to protect and control the use of their trademarks. Often the need and obligation to protect its marks places Hansen in a very difficult position. If Hansen allows its marks to be used in any way that does not signify that Hansen is the source of good or service, then the value and meaning of Hansen marks are diminished. If Hansen allows these issues to go unaddressed, it may lose its rights to the Hansen marks.

Hansen is fully aware of the fact that it would not be as successful as it is without the continued passion and devotion of Hansen and Monster enthusiasts. However, the way in which Hansen allows its trademarks to be used is strictly prescribed by law. Hansen simply cannot allow the Hansen marks to be used without its explicit authorization. For this reason, Hansen is forced to consistently monitor the use of the Hansen marks or risk losing ownership of those marks.

Continental Enterprises

Continental Enterprises
(Source: ce-ip.com)

Continental Enterprises (“Continental”) has been engaged by Hansen to help control the use of its mark. You are receiving this letter because Continental has received information that you advertised and/or sold products bearing one or more of the Hansen marks, or confusingly similar derivations thereof. We understand that the inclusion of the Hansen marks on your product may have been an oversight. However, on behalf of Hansen, Continental must demand that you discontinue your advertisement and sale of these products.

Upon your receipt and review of this letter, please contact our offices so that we may work toward a resolution of the issue that is satisfactory to all parties involved.

Sincerely,
Darlene R. Seymour
General Counsel
1292 East 91st St.
Indianapolis, IN 46240

P 317.818.0523
F 317.566.2453

http://forums.tannerworld.com/showthread.php?t=8751

The firm sending the complaint is identified as Continental Enterprises, which according to their website, “is an intellectual property consulting firm that takes a novel and aggressive approach to brand protection and infringement issues.”

After the initial shock wore off, along with questioning “is this for real?”, I talked with some associates who run similar websites that also feature reviews. After some consultation, we decided to withhold a response, waiting to see if a second communication would arrive and/or to verify the authenticity of the original complaint.

Well, yesterday, another e-mail arrived in our Inbox, again through the same web contact form. This time it arrived at 1:48 p.m. on October 18:

Name:
Legal Dept
E-mail Address:
Legaldept@ce-ip.com

Comments:

Re: Hansen Beverage Company Intellectual Property

To Whom It May Concern:

I have yet to receive a response to my prior correspondence with you.

Hansen Beverage Company considers this a serious matter and, if you do not take immediate steps to resolve this issue, they will be forced to take more aggressive action to protect their intellectual property rights.

I await your immediate response.

This correspondence is being sent in an attempt to achieve a prompt and informal resolution of this matter, and is thus privileged.

Nothing contained in and/or omitted from this letter or any prior communications is intended to be or should be considered an admission of any fact or a waiver of any right or defense, all of which are expressly reserved.

Sincerely,
Darlene Seymour
General Counsel
1292 East 91st St.
Indianapolis, IN 46240
P 317.818.0523
F 317.566.2453

Link of violation: http://forums.tannerworld.com/showthread.php?t=8751

First of all, to the folks at Hansen and Monster Energy… what the heck? Ever hear of “fair use”. I fail to see anything in my reviews that could be considered us having “advertised and/or sold products bearing one or more of the Hansen marks, or confusingly similar derivations thereof.”

Of course, the more ironic part… Hansen Beverage Company has previously provided BevReview.com with samples of their beverages for the purposes of online review. Perhaps the marketing/PR department should talk to the legal folks!