from the not-how-it-works dept
Look, trademark law can be confusing. If you’re not spending some significant portion of your life either practicing trademark law or writing about trademark law, you might misunderstand how it works. In particular, the requirement for entities to be in the same business or market often times trips people up, with them either not realizing that this provision exists for there to be trademark infringement in most cases, or else not understanding exactly what it means to be competing in the same marketplace.
But my understanding and generosity in this is heavily strained when a winery sues a construction company just because the winery built stuff on its property.
According to a filing in San Francisco’s U.S. District Court, dated March 2, Sonoma’s Caymus Capital is being sued, along with other related parties, by Caymus Vineyards of Napa.
The suit cites the defendants’ “unauthorized and unlawful use of Plaintiff’s famous, incontestable federal trademark registration for the mark ‘Caymus’ and Plaintiff’s corporate and trade name ‘Caymus Vineyards.’”
By way of background, Caymus Capital is related to Caymus Builders, Caymus Residential Recovery, and other related businesses, all of which are also named in Caymus Vinedyards’ lawsuit. To be clear, none of these companies are in the wine business. All of them are in the building and construction business. Readers of this site will already be scratching their heads wondering what argument the winery might be making in order to assert that any of this is trademark infringement.
Well, there are two arguments in the lawsuit, both of which are equally flimsy. First, as part of its wine business, Caymus Vineyards asserts in its filing that it builds stuff.
The suit explains that Caymus Vineyards has engaged in building projects on its own properties, primarily in the Napa Valley, and is currently developing a winery, bottling and distribution complex in Solano, where it does business as Caymus-Suisun.
None of which makes it a builder or construction company in the commercial marketplace. Were this to equate to trademark infringement, construction companies would likely have to go unnamed entirely, because every industry has to build stuff to be an industry.
In the complaint itself, Caymus Vineyards also complains that Caymus Builders, which is located in nearby Sonoma, tried to help with the recovery efforts from last year’s devastating wildfires that rocked Wine Country.
Since that time, Defendant Caymus Builders LLC has advertised its services along the Napa-Sonoma corridor, presumably as part of the re-building process. … The highly visible signage advertising Defendant’s goods and services alongside vineyard properties will likely cause confusion, mistake, or deception as to the source, affiliation, sponsorship or authenticity of Defendant’s goods and services.
Say it with me now: none of this makes Caymus Vineyard a builder, nor does it make Caymus Builders a winery. All of this complaining is silly, as are claims that anyone is going to confuse the quite famous Caymus Vineyards winery with a construction company.
Hopefully the court will see clear to putting the cork back in this disaster of a trademark suit.