Woof: The Prosecco People Successfully Oppose A Pet-Treat Company's 'Pawsecco' Trademark Application

from the punderful dept

In the realm of the alcohol industry, the French champagne makers have distinguished themselves for their jealous protection of the name of their sparkling white wine. This protectionism is taken to the extreme, with association groups representing champagne makers essentially forbidding anyone else from even using the term. France’s neighbor, Italy, has its own sparkling white wine called prosecco. And it seems that the makers of prosecco are trying to take a page from their champagne-making cousins in “protecting” their trademarks to a ridiculous degree.

A maker of drinks for pets recently tried to trademark the name of a product it makes called “Pawsecco.” The pet treat is not alcoholic, is sold only to pet owners, and is, frankly, puntastic. Despite all of this being supremely obvious, Woof and Brew faced a trademark opposition from the prosecco people.

‘Pawsecco’ was opposed by Consorzio di Tutela della Denominazione di Origine Controllata Prosecco, the Italian organisation responsible for the protection and promotion of Prosecco’s PDO. The PDO relates to wines deriving from a particular vine species, within specific grape-growing areas in Italy. For a wine to qualify as Prosecco there are also unique bottling and labelling requirements.

Consorzio said the applied-for mark would be confused with its earlier registered EU trademark (EUTM), which features the words ‘Prosecco PDO’ in a circle around the silhouette of glasses (EUTM number 11,619,764).

Okay, a couple of things here. First, the claims of potential confusion are clearly ridiculous. The products in question are not remotely similar, save for a tongue-in-cheek pun-based name Woof and Brew devised for its product. Even that pun is of the kind that clearly identifies the product differences and comes as part of a long-running tradition of pet stores punning known brands in selling their pet equivalents. Any clear reading of this opposition leaves the reader thinking that it is absolutely absurd.

Second, is this really the best look for a trade group representing prosecco makers? After all, embedded in the opposition is that its products, billed as a classy, high-quality sparkling wine, could be confused with something pet owners feed to their dogs. Is that really the claim the consortium wants to make?

Amazingly, despite all of this, Team Prosecco actually won its opposition. After admitting in its ruling that there is no chance for public confusion over any of this, the UK IPO then decided that the very allusion to prosecco warranted a refusal of the “Pawsecco” mark.

It agreed with Consorzio’s assertion that the ‘Pawsecco’ mark was “coined in order to allude to a type of wine”, though the IPO noted that “it is highly unlikely that pet owners would assume that the product was actually wine”.

Overall, “the nature of the whole marketing strategy appears predicated upon an assumption that the potential consumer will see the evocation,” the IPO said, adding it is an “inevitable conclusion” that Woof and Brew saw “some form of commercial benefit in choosing (and using) the name that it did”. Woof and Brew is therefore “taking advantage of the strong reputation possessed by the PDO, riding on its coat-tails”, and to “tolerate such use would not promote fair competition”, the IPO concluded.

And so Woof and Brew doesn’t get its trademark and has to pay the consortium nearly $3,000 for costs incurred in opposing the trademark. All for a trademark conflict that the IPO itself admits contains no risk for confusing the public consumer.

And they say trademark laws are broken.

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Companies: woof and brew

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