Where are those lawsuit reform groups when you really need them? You know, such outfits as Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse that are always squawking about "frivolous" lawsuits and demanding new laws to prevent people from suing big corporations.
But what about corporations that sue us? For example, if those reform outfits were really honest about lawsuit abuse, they'd be hammering Hansen Beverage, the billion-dollar California corporation that markets "Monster" energy drinks.
Hansen's legal hounds have reached clear across the continent to sue a tiny firm in Morrisville, Vt., named Rock Art Brewery. Matt and Renee Nadeau own it and employ seven people to produce artisanal beers, including a popular one called "The Vermonster." That label prompted Hansen Beverage to sue Rock Art, claiming that the name infringes on the corporation's "Monster" trademark.
Never mind that the Vermonster is a beer and not an energy drink, and that we consumers are not so clueless, as Hansen's lawyers allege, that we might confuse the two. The beverage giant insists that the family-owned beer maker surrender the name.
Patent lawyers say that the law is probably on the side of the Nadeaus — but here's where the corporate abuse comes in. Corporate lawyers know that cases like these can go on for years, and small businesses and groups often can't bear it. So corporations use lawsuits as a simple way to bully anyone who stands in their way.
But guess what? Rock Art Brewery isn't willing to be bullied and has taken the fight online, describing it as "Rock Art Brewery vs. Corporate America." To join the cause, go rockartbrewery.com. I wonder why Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse hasn't come to the Nadeaus' aid? Did I mention it was created and is funded by Philip Morris and other big corporations?
Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, on sale now from Wiley Publishing. For more information, visit jimhightower.com.