Californians are no strangers to wine. Whether you drink it or not, you know wine is a massive industry that continues to grow. This growth may satiate wine lovers across the U.S. who thirst for more options, but it creates a problem for wineries who are finding it tougher and tougher to distinguish themselves in the marketplace.
This is especially evident when it comes to the naming and labeling of wines. This is illustrated by a current case involving Bogle Vineyards and Next Wine LLC, -- competing California wine makers who are locked in a dispute regarding use of the word "essential" on their labels.
Although Bogle had been branding their wines for many years with the phrase "Essential Red" wine, they never applied for or obtained a trademark for the phrase. In 2013, Next Wine secured a trademark on the phrase "My Essential Red." Shortly after, Bogle applied for a trademark on "Essential Red" wine, but the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office denied the request citing a likelihood of confusion. Although the labels look nothing alike, and the use and location of the "essential" element are very different between the brands, the parties attempted to work out an agreement that allowed them to coexist.
Reaching an agreement was problematic, though, as Bogle demanded that Next Wine secure preapproval from Bogle regarding any future label designs. Considering that Next Wine holds the trademark and is in a much stronger legal and bargaining position, it is not surprising it turned down Bogle's demand. Next Wine filed a lawsuit against Bogle calling its behavior, among other things, bullying, so they're battling it out in court.
Despite being in the early stages of litigation, the case is instructive that securing a trademark as early as practicable to protect intellectual property is important, especially in rapidly growing industries; otherwise, like a bad bottle of wine you may be left with a bitter taste in your mouth.
Any business owner or executive with questions or concerns about trademarks or other means of protecting your company's intellectual property would be wise to seek legal counsel to consider your options. There can be a lot on the line in these cases, from money to your company's branding which may determine the success of your business.