Baseball may be the American pastime, but our favorite sport is suing people.
Sadly, the growing industry of trademark infringement has spilled over into the wine world. The dramatic increase in lawsuits can probably be traced to the fact that many large wineries are now owned by multi-national beverage conglomerates, most of which have legal departments constantly trolling for fresh targets. Here are some highlights of the past few months:
Roederer Champagne, makers of the world-famous Cristal, moved against the Spanish company Jaume Serra because they produced a Cava labeled Cristalino. A compromise was eventually reached that mandated Jaume Serra identify themselves as the producer on the label, to avoid confusion. How many people would confuse Cristal (average retail $250) with a $9 bottle of Spanish Cava?
Gallo sued a Seattle gourmet store called The Spanish Table for selling a Spanish-made pasta named Gallo Pasta. Gallo is no stranger to the trademark infringement area, having previously sued Italy’s Chianti Classico consortium for their trademark Gallo Nero, or black rooster (yes, Gallo means rooster in several languages).
The Layer Cake brand of wines sued the Cupcake brand. Enough said.
When words are not enough: Yellow Tail sued the Bronco Wine company for the use of brackets on the label of their new Australian release, Down Under. They claimed that the [brackets] infringed on their [yellow tail] brand.
Finally, we come to the saddest case of all. Attorneys for Francis Ford Coppola threatened a lawsuit against Diamond Ridge winery in Lake County. Niebaum-Coppola is one of the largest wineries in California, famous for their popular Diamond Series wines. Diamond Ridge is a 900-case operation. Coppola has previously prevented a number of wineries from registering labels that contained the word “Diamond.”
When Coppola first came out with his Diamond Series, the Diamond Creek winery had been making Cabernet for decades. Diamond Creek was, and is, a legendary producer of expensive and sought-after California Cabernet—a name worth protecting, to be sure. The late Al Brounstein, founder of Diamond Creek and a true gentleman, made no legal moves against Coppola.
There’s a lesson there somewhere.