Because registered marks are so important to alcohol-based companies, they are always on the lookout for other producers who may be infringing on their mark.
Sometimes, these mark infringement actions don’t even involve a standard “word” trademarks but instead revolve around “trade dress” trademarks. Valid trade dress marks usually involved the packaging or bottling methods of products.
The case Maker’s Mark Distillery, Inc. v. Diageo North America, Inc., was premised on just this sort of action.
Though the parties in the case were liquor giants Markers Mark and Jose Cuervo, the attorney’s here at LoTempio law thought our wine connoisseur might appreciate an overview of the action, in case they ever wanted to begin their own wine producing venture (the law is the same no matter the size of your company after all).
In this action Makers Mark sued Jose Cuervo for distributing amber colored tequila in a bottle topped with a fake red-wax seal. Makers Mark contended that the tequilas packaging, in particular the use of the red wax seal, were a violation of Marker’s Mark trademarks.
In the decision, the court decided the Maker’s Mark’s dripping red wax was a valid trademark as a form of packaging design. Jose Cuervo was enjoined from using that specific mark, and stopped producing the brand of tequila in question in 2010 after nine years of costly litigation.
Obviously, this case can be used as a cautionary tale for wine makers everywhere. Not only do you need to be careful how you name your project, you also have to be careful how you package your product. This may seem overly complicated and protective, but if any of our readers hit it big in the wine market they may one day be thankful for this sort of protection.
Standard Makers Mark Bottle