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Making a “monster” out of a mole hill? Monster Energy continues putting on clinic for aggressive IP protection.

Monster Sues MET-Rx Over ‘Love The Monster’ Ads
Share us on: By Bill Donahue

Law360, New York (January 31, 2017, 1:46 PM EST) — Monster Energy Co. kicked off its latest trademark battle Monday, filing an infringement lawsuit in California federal court against sports supplement brand MET-Rx over a new “Love The Monster” marketing campaign.

The energy drink maker, known for its aggressive approach to trademark enforcement, says MET-Rx and corporate owner Nature’s Bounty Co. are intentionally infringing Monster’s trademarks with the campaign, which kicked off in April.

“Defendants have attempted to capitalize on Monster’s valuable reputation and customer goodwill in the ‘Monster’ marks by using the confusingly similar ‘Love The Monster’ mark in a manner that is likely to cause consumers and potential consumers to believe that defendants’ products are associated with Monster or Monster’s products, when they are not,” Monster wrote.

It’s hardly the first time Monster has made those kind of allegations.

The company is a constant presence at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, where it routinely blocks other other companies from securing federal trademark registrations for anything involving the word “monster.” The company often targets small companies, like a Vermont brewery that wanted to sell a “Vermonster” beer, but has also picked trademark fights with the Toronto Raptors, NFL star Marshawn Lynch, Paramount Pictures, Sazerac Co. and other big-time opponents.

Given Monster’s litigious history, the use of “Love the monster” slogan alone probably would have drawn a lawsuit regardless, but Monday’s complaint makes a creative claim that MET-Rx is going a step further than just using the mark.

According to the complaint, one of Monster’s top paid endorsers is New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. The company “sells and distributes an energy drink called ‘Gronk,’ which prominently features Gronkowski’s nickname, image, and signature” and he is “often pictured” drinking the company’s beverages or wearing Monster gear.

According to Monster, MET-Rx is using Los Angeles Chargers defense end Joey Bosa to intentionally imitate the Gronk sponsorship.

“Similar to Monster’s use of Gronkowski, Defendants use Bosa as a brand spokesperson who is often pictured wearing Met-RX clothing and drinking Met-RX products in advertisements displaying the mark ‘Love The Monster,’” the suit says.

A spokeswoman for Nature’s Bounty did not immediately return a request for comment on Tuesday.

MET-Rx launched the “Love The Monster” campaign in April when it introduced a new line of sports drinks and protein shakes. The campaign, cooked up by ad agency Droga5, got a positive writeup in AdWeek when it debuted.

“The MET-Rx portfolio is designed to help athletes nourish and love their inner monster, and our new product lines were developed to meet the needs of a new generation of athletes,” the company said in a press release announcing the new line.

Monster says it sent several cease-and-desist letters regarding the slogan.

Monster is represented by Lynda J. Zadra-Symes of Knobbe Martens Olson and Bear LLP.

Counsel information for Nature’s Bounty is not yet available.

The case is Monster Energy Company v. The Nature’s Bounty Company et al, case number 5:17-cv-00165, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

— Editing by Ben Guilfoy.