Legal Roundup: MillerCoors Attempts to Block Former Exec from Joining Constellation Brands

MillerCoors Sues Former Strategist Departing for Constellation Brands

MillerCoors has filed a breach of contract lawsuit against a former lead strategist who left the company to work for competitor Constellation Brands, the Chicago Tribune reported.

MillerCoors, the second largest brewing company in the U.S., is seeking a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to block Eric McCloskey, the company’s “highest-ranking employee in its Integrated Strategy Organization,” from starting his new role as the vice president of sales strategy for Constellation Brands’ wine and spirits division. McCloskey, who reported directly to CEO Gavin Hattersley, has a 1-year non-compete clause in his contract with MillerCoors. The company is also seeking damages.

MillerCoors spokesman Marty Maloney shared the following statement: “Eric resigned from MillerCoors to join Constellation’s wine and spirits division. We believe that this move is a direct violation of his non-compete agreement with MillerCoors and are taking steps to enforce our rights under the agreement.”

The lawsuit, filed in Illinois’ Cook County Circuit Court, says McCloskey, who started with the company in May 2013, was MillerCoors’ “most knowledgeable and highest ranking employee regarding (pricing, marketing and innovation) analytics and analyses.” The company argues that McCloskey would be able to us MillerCoors’ market analytics to “gain an unfair advantage in the marketplace.”

MillerCoors added that McCloskey was integral in setting the company’s strategic vision and knowledgeable of the company’s “current year and long range plan (three years), pricing strategy, innovations (new brands and packaging), and competitive analysis on other beer companies, wine and spirits as well as cannabis impacts.” Specifically, the company claims McCloskey was in charge of researching how it can attract wine and spirits to beer, and his team had been working on reports focused on Constellation Brands.

MillerCoors also claims in the lawsuit that McCloskey attached an external flash drive to his MillerCoors laptop on the day he resigned and searched how to clear files from the laptop and transfer them to another computer.

In addition to its suit against McCloskey, MillerCoors is suing Constellation Brands for intentional interference with a contract.

Bell’s Loses Trademark Fight with North Carolina Brewer

Michigan-headquartered Bell’s Brewery has lost a nearly 3-year federal trademark dispute with North Carolina’s Innovation Brewing, according to the Mountain Xpress.

Bell’s had sought to block the smaller craft brewery from using “Innovation” in its name, claiming its use infringed on Bell’s “bottling innovation since 1985” and “inspired brewing” slogans.

However, the Trademark Trials and Appeals Board ruled that it was unlikely Innovation Brewing’s name would cause confusion with Bell’s trademarks.

A Bell’s spokesman shared the following statement: “We respect the Trademark Office’s decision and look forward to continue doing business as usual.”

Thelonious Monk Trademark Lawsuit Against North Coast Advances

A federal judge is allowing a lawsuit filed by the son of Thelonious Monk against North Coast Brewing Co. to proceed, according to Reuters.

Thelonious Monk Jr., who had allowed North Coast to use his father’s name on Brother Thelonious Belgian Style Abbey Ale, claims the California brewery is using the jazz musician’s name and likeness on other merchandise without the estate’s permission.

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