Molson Coors announced the upcoming launch of a 'Vizzy' seltzer in December, positioning it as a functional alcoholic beverage infused with vitamin C from acerola cherry. It will launch across the US with four flavors in March.
But Future Proof Brands LLC - the small independent maker of the Brizzy Seltzer Cocktails - says the name Vizzy is 'nearly identical to Brizzy in sight, sound and appearance': and fears the Vizzy entry from multinational beer giant Molson Coors will jeopardize its brand.
From BeatBox to Brizzy
Future Proof started in Texas in 2013 as three 20-something entrepreneurs behind party punch BeatBox; shooting to fame the following year when it walked away with a $1m investment on Shark Tank (at the time, it was the biggest investment ever made on the TV show).
After filing its trademark application for Brizzy in November 2018, Future Proof launched Brizzy in Texas last summer, and the brand is now sold at more than 1,000 retail locations across four US states. As a 'flavor-forward take on the hard seltzer phenomenon', the company predicts Brizzy sales will exceed $2.5m in 2020 and it plans to continue expanding distribution.
On learning of the pending Vizzy launch, Future Proof filed suit against Molson Coors in Austin on February 6, alleging the beer giant is infringing on Brizzy's federally registered trademark and creating market confusion with the launch of Vizzy.
“The positive market reaction to Brizzy has exceeded our expectations. Unfortunately, several wholesalers and retailers are already expressing concerns about likely consumer confusion with Vizzy,” said Justin Fenchel, co-founder and CEO of Future Proof.
“The names are nearly identical, they sound alike, the product is similar, the packaging is similar, and we are often distributed by the same wholesalers.”
Brizzy is available in Watermelon Mule, Strawberry Rosé, Mixed Berry Mojito and Blood Orange Mimosa. Each 12oz can contains 100 calories, 1g of sugar, 2g of carbs with a 5% ABV. Though categorized as a seltzer, Future Proof said they are ‘cocktail inspired.’
Vizzy will launch with Black Cherry Lime, Blueberry Pomegranate, Strawberry Kiwi and Pineapple Mango. Each 12oz slim can contains 100 calories, 1g of sugar with a 5% ABV. Molson Coors said the product is directed at health and wellness trends in beverage.
MolsonCoors - whose brands include Coors Light, Blue Moon and Miller Lite - says consumers won't be confused by the introduction of Vizzy. “We are aware of the complaint Future Proof filed. The facts are the USPTO [United States Patent and Trademark Office] published the Vizzy trademark application after reviewing the registered trademarks, including the ones owned by Future Proof," it told BeverageDaily in a statement responding to the lawsuit.
“Plus, Vizzy’s packaging is markedly different and offers unique ingredients. We don’t believe consumers will be confused. Distributors and retailers alike are thrilled about getting Vizzy on shelves this spring, as we all believe that the brand has strong potential to be a meaningful player in the hard seltzer segment.”
'A multinational brewing conglomerate doesn't have the right to bigfoot a smaller competitor'
In the lawsuit, Future Proof alleges that Molson Coors and its executives were ‘keenly aware’ of the Brizzy product and trademark, and that the company admitted it had reviewed Future Proof’s website.
It says that the Brizzy mark has 'acquired substantial value and goodwill' since its launch, noting the 'great effort and considerable resources' it has put into promoting the Brizzy mark.
'We have a duty to defend our trademark!'
"This isn’t the first time a multi-billion dollar conglomerate has attempted to squeeze out a smaller, independent brand - and it won’t be the last" says Future Proof.
"Brizzy Seltzer Cocktail is a true startup, with a roster of just over 18 employees nationally – so while we certainly can’t outspend companies like Molson Coors, we have a duty to defend our trademark."
According to the company, distributors have already mistakenly contacted Future Proof to ask when the Vizzy product will launch.
Future Proof said it welcomes ‘legitimate competition,’ but says the Vizzy launch “violates the basic tenets of fair competition.”
Future Proof is seeking damages and to ban Molson Coors from using the Vizzy name and appearance to sell, market or distribute alcoholic beverages.
“A multinational brewing conglomerate doesn’t have the right to bigfoot a smaller competitor and blatantly violate our trademark and jeopardize everything we’ve built,” Fenchel said.
The case is Future Proof Brands LLC v. Molson Coors Beverage Company f/k/a Molson Coors Brewing Company and MillerCoors LLC. in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas.