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Winery Prevails in High Stakes Trademark Trial

October 10, 2017

On September 19, 2017, WSHB client Fetzer Vineyards received a resounding trial victory in a trademark action brought by Sazerac Company.

In its lawsuit, Sazerac alleged that Fetzer Vineyards’ bourbon barrel aged 1000 Stories wine, which depicts a buffalo image, was confusingly similar to Sazerac’s Buffalo Trace bourbon whiskey, which also depicts a buffalo image. In a 35-page ruling, following a week long bench trial, U.S. District Court Judge William H. Orrick agreed with virtually every argument advanced by the defense, including that the Buffalo Trace brand lacked the requisite distinctiveness, that the two products are not confusingly similar, and that Sazerac failed to demonstrate any harm. “In the final analysis,” wrote Judge Orrick, “this case was not close.”

Earlier in the case, the Court granted large parts of a motion for summary judgment brought by the defense. The Court dismissed all monetary damages and a handful of other claims, setting the stage for Fetzer Vineyards to prevail at trial on the remaining claims.

The defense judgment provides much-deserved vindication to Fetzer Vineyards regarding its innovative and successful 1000 Stories brand, which established a growing trend of bourbon barrel aged wines in the industry.

Intellectual property attorneys Steven R. Disharoon and Anoush C. Holaday handled the case from WSHB, along with Robert C. Holtzapple of Farella, Braun, and Martel LLP.

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