from the putting-the-tea-in-trademark dept
We’ve had a few instances in the past involving wine-makers and needless trademark spats with companies in completely unrelated industries. The time Trek Bicycle went after a winery, comes to mind for instance. More recently, and somewhat more appropriate to this post, was the trademark dispute between a winery and brewery with similar names. The question in that case was whether or not wine and beer were distinct enough products so as to be essentially operating in different industries and, therefore, not fall under the trademark provisions for their respective marks.
This case is even dumber, as Barefoot Wine is contesting the trademark registration of Barefoot Kombucha. Kombucha, you may not be aware, is a tea drink, and Barefoot Kombucha isn’t even an alcoholic drink.
A Virginia husband-and-wife kombucha operation is defending its name in trademark court against the world’s largest winery. Ethan and Kate Zuckerman, the couple behind Barefoot Bucha, are currently involved in trademark litigation with E. & J. Gallo, the parent company of Barefoot Wine, which opposed the craft kombucha brand’s trademark application earlier this year, claiming the brand is “confusingly similar in appearance, sound and meaning to the Barefoot Marks.”
So the side discussion of this spat could revolve around the logos of the companies (which are somewhat dissimilar), whether or not the inclusion of the specific kind of drink, wine vs. Kombucha, would negate any customer confusion, or exactly how similar the total packaging of the two company’s products is (not very). But we shouldn’t really have to do any of that. One of these products is tea and the other is wine. One of them is alcoholic and the other is not. If that isn’t enough of a distinction to declare that the two companies operate in different marketplaces, then I don’t know what is.
Kate Zuckerman echoed a similar sentiment in a call with BevNET Wednesday, saying “Trademark law was written to protect consumers but in practice a larger company can challenge a smaller business in court and it’s a lengthy, time-consuming, expensive, stressful process.”
Zuckerman also argued against the wine corporation’s aforementioned “confusingly similar” claim that consumers would mistake the products for one another in stores.
“Kombucha is a totally different product from wine,” Zuckerman added. “We’re carried in different retailers, we’re in different bottles We just don’t believe it’s likely consumers drinking kombucha are going to mistake our product for their product.”
I went to get a bottle of wine but ended up with this bottle of tea… said nobody ever in the history of drinking. And, look, I take this seriously as an avid wine-drinker. I’m the exact kind of consumer Barefoot Wine purports to be concerned about. I assure you there’s no confusion here.
The post mentions that the two companies have been in contact in order to settle this issue. Hopefully that amounts to Barefoot Wine backing off.