As originally reported by the Napa Valley Register, two vineyard “houses” in Napa are currently in disagreement about the use of a similar name. See Lawsuit Claims Confusion Between 2 Napa ‘Vineyard Houses.’ Vineyard House Winery in Oakville is disputing the use of “Vineyard House” by The Napa Vineyard House. On February 1st, The Vineyard House, LLC filed a complaint against Napa Vineyard House, Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. See here. The complaint alleges trademark infringement by The Napa Vineyard House. The complaint further alleges that the use of the term “Vineyard House” by The Napa Vineyard House confuses consumers and creates unfair competition, especially considering that the properties are located close to one another.
The owners of the Vineyard House Winery in Oakville assert that one of the companies needs to change its name and it should not be the original Vineyard House Winery. The Vineyard House Winery was established over a decade ago while The Napa Vineyard House took roots back in 2013. Per USPTO TESS, The Vineyard House, LLC is the registrant of the standard character mark The Vineyard House. The Vineyard House, LLC is licensed as a wholesaler with TTB and holds a Type 20 and Type 17 with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. The Napa Vineyard House, however, is a boutique inn in a remodeled Napa farmhouse and does not hold a TTB permit (at least not under the name The Napa Vineyard House).
The complaint alleges that the owners of The Napa Vineyard House intentionally tried to deceive those making reservations into thinking they were making a reservation at The Vineyard House Winery and the use of “Vineyard House” will create irreparable damage to the original House. The Vineyard House Winery asked the boutique inn to present advertisement and promotional materials so that such could be destroyed. On top of that, the winery also asked for monetary damages.
Irrespective of the results of this particular suit, this particular instance is demonstrative of how important it is to work with a trademark attorney, especially an attorney who understands the alcohol beverage industry and the risks associated with using certain names. Even though it does not appear that The Napa Vineyard House is a TTB-licensed entity, there is always a risk that a hospitality-related or even a retail store could serve as a potential ground for trademark infringement.
For more information on wine or alcohol law, or trademark, please contact Lindsey Zahn.
DISCLAIMER: This blog post is for general information purposes only, is not intended to constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship results. Please consult your own attorney for legal advice.