The latest turn in wine-related trademark law comes from the recent Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) decision of In re AOP LLC.
In this case, the TTAB rejected AOP LLC ‘s (the applicant) attempt to register the word mark “AOP” because the mark was both deceptive and mis-descriptive.
What does AOP stand for?: Appellation d’Origine Protégée (French & European protection of geographic products).
The TTAB believed the applicant was attempting to deceive wine consumers by alluding to the Appellation d’Origine Protegee, a European regulatory system used to in the wine making and bottling process.
In the case, the applicant argued that American consumers would not be confused to the AOP mark, as because the designation is not yet mandatory the mark is not yet present on all European wines circulated in the United Stated. But in their own web page they define it as:
We’re wine traders and technology gurus and our company is called AOP LLC. (The letters AOP stand for APPELLATION D’ORIGINE PROTÉGÉE meaning, loosely translated, PROTECTED LABEL OF ORIGIN).
The TTAB disagreed with this assessment, stating that many wine consumers were aware of the AOP designation from the internet, and as such the applicants argument was not sufficient.
The examiner argued that experienced wine buyer may see the AOP mark, and assume the wine was associated with the European regulatory system wine when the product was in fact no was related with the Appellation d’Origine Protegee.
Moreover, if the quality of the wine was not up to Appellation d’Origine Protegee standards, the mark would not only be deceptive, but also mis-descriptive.
In essence, by labeling their wine with the AOP mark, the applicant would be misdirecting consumers as to both the origin of the wine and the quality of the wine.
On the matter, the TTAB stated:
with a designation of quality and origin, it is natural that a substantial proportion of consumers of wine would be interested in the AOP designation.
As delivering a consistent quality product is vital to developing business good-will, this sort of taint on the Appellation d’Origine Protegee could not be allowed by the TTAB, who proceeded to reject the applicants trademark.