Imagine this: You have finally achieved your life-long goal of fermenting, bottling, and producing your own wine. You have received your COLA (Certificate of Federal Authority) from the Federal Government. You begin selling and advertising your product and you feel like the sky is the limit for your new business.
A few weeks go by, and you receive a strongly worded cease and desist letter, claiming your new brand of wine has infringed on another person’s trademark.
You might then wonder, “How is this possible? The Feds checked to make sure my brand name wasn’t the same as any other alcohol product when I applied for my COLA! Now that I have my COLA, I can’t possibly be infringing on someone else’s trademark.” Unfortunately, this line of reasoning is just plain wrong.
Having a COLA is not the equivalent to having a registered trademark, and does not afford you any protection from an infringement claim brought against you. This can be a confusing concept to a lot of people, as both kinds of registration are through the Federal Government, and both registrations check to see if another party is using an identical or similar mark.
Essentially, it comes down to the fact that the approval system for COLA and the Trademark registration system do not have the exact same standards, and are run by different government agencies. This essentially means two things for independent wine makers:
- The only way to be afforded trademark protection is to file for a trademark, regardless of the wine makers COLA status.
- The only way to protect yourself from trademark infringement suits is to conduct a throughout search of United States Trademarks, and ensure your mark does not infringe on any existing marks under the Lanham Act.
Due to the difficulty of navigating United States Trademark law, any wine maker should look into registering their trademark name before going to market. Otherwise, years of hard work could be lost during lengthy litigation procedures.