from the cristal-clear dept
What is it about producing champagne that turns you into a trademark bullying jackwagon? Readers here will know that the Comite Champagne, or CIVC, is purely a trademark bully for champagne producers out of France, policing the rest of the world to ensure nobody dares call anything not produced by one of its constituents anything remotely resembling “champagne.” But this ownership culture that must certainly have been learned from the top down in this micro-industry has also spilled over at the winery level.
For an example of this, you need only look to Louis Roederer, producers of famed brand Cristal, and its attempt to oppose the trademark registration of a small Oregon winery that makes a sparkling wine branded as Crystal Visions.
Melaney Schmidt and Malia Myers are the sparkling wine specialists behind Landmass Wines in Cascade Locks. In 2019 the duo named a new sparkling pinot noir Crystal Visions in honor of their admiration for the singer Stevie Nicks. The phrase “crystal visions” appears in the lyrics of the Fleetwood Mac song “Dreams.”
Schmidt and Myers then did what they should have: applied for a trademark on the brand with the USPTO. From there, an attorney was assigned to review the application and to search out any potentially conflicting trademarks that had already been registered, and then pushed the application through to publication. From there, the companies and individuals of the world got 30 days to oppose the trademark.
Louis Roederer asked for an extension to review and then finally filed an opposition to the mark. In addition, counsel for the company sent a letter to Landmass Wines claiming that its branding could cause confusion with the public between the two brands.
And that, dear readers, is pretty fucking stupid. Cristal is a hundreds-per-bottle French sparkling white wine sold in a distinctive bottle. Crystal Visions is a sparkling red wine that costs about as much as a short cab ride and sold in a bottle that looks nothing like a bottle of Cristal. There is no real confusion to be had here.
Cristal is made with grapes from grand cru vineyards in France’s Champagne region. Cristal’s distinctive clear glass bottle is wrapped in gold cellophane to protect the wine from ultraviolet rays. The bottle features an understated label and a traditional cork. Cristal is also expensive and enjoyed by both David and Victoria Beckham.
Crystal Visions is made with grapes from Underwood Mountain in the Columbia Gorge, and it is cellophane-free. The wine’s label is pure pop art, and the bottle is sealed with a metal crown cap. Crystal Visions is inexpensive, and it is unknown whether the Beckhams have ever enjoyed it. If they did, they could buy a case of Crystal Visions for about the price of one bottle of Cristal.
This should be a simple case to make and win in front of any sane juror or judge. Or member of the public. Or the USPTO attorney who reviewed the application. Or, let’s say, a particularly intelligent golden retriever. But, because Louis Roederer is big and Landmass Wines is small, the former can simply drown the latter in court and legal costs. As a result, Landmass has decided to simply abandon its application and rebrand the wine.
“We’re being told we can’t use something we worked hard to create, only because we’re so small. It feels like bullying, and there’s nothing we can do about it,” Myers said.
Correct, unfortunately, on all counts.