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TTB Revises Guidance Document on Personalized Labels

On September 5, 2017, TTB issued a new public guidance document, TTB G 2017-2, for personalized labels which the agency said supersedes its prior guidance TTB G 2011-05 but does not “completely change the underlying policy.” See TTB Public Guidance, TTB G 2017-2, Personalized Labels. Per TTB, the new guidance seeks to clarify the process for applicants seeking label approval to make certain changes to personalized labels without having to submit a new label application to TTB.

TTB considers a personalized label one that contains the minimum mandatory label information as mandated by 27 CFR Parts 4, 5, and 7 and through which is customized for a particular individual. These types of labels generally contain a specific message, statement, picture, or similar that may celebrate, for example, a wedding, anniversary, birthday, etc. The labels are specific to the customer who is purchasing the product. TTB notes in its guidance document that TTB G 2017-2 does not apply to customized private labels, which are generally created for purchasers other than the ultimate consumer.

In general, if an industry member wishes to make changes to a TTB personalized label, such must be indicated on the label application submitted to TTB. In its guidance, TTB notes that “[t]he applicant must submit a template for the personalized label with the application for label approval, and must note on the application a description of the specific personalized information that may change.” The template should include all mandatory information that is required to appear on the label for the particular product (such as brand name, class or type designation, alcohol by volume statement, etc.) as well as any other label information that is not part of the customized/personalized label. (This may include, for example, descriptive text about the wine’s tasting notes.)

TTB also indicates in 2017-2 that Item 15 of the label application must include additional information, such as the specific personalized information and details on which or not the label will be etched. The guidance document further clarifies that this information must be put in Item 15 and not, for example, as an attachment or in “Note to Specialist.” This information seems to be clarified slightly with respect to TTB’s prior guidance document (TTB G 2011-05).

TTB G 2017-2 also clarifies information with respect to making changes to an approved, personalized label. The agency states that changes must be consistent with the personalized label qualification printed below:

The approval of this COLA covers this label and any additions, deletions or changes in graphics, salutations, congratulatory dates and names, and artwork to personalize the label as indicated on the application. This approval to change the personalizing information does not permit the addition of any information that discusses either the alcohol beverage or characteristics of the alcohol beverage or that is inconsistent with or in violation of the provisions of 27 CFR parts 4, 5, 7 or 16, as applicable, or any other applicable provision of law or regulations.

Changes to mandatory information, such as the brand name or class or type designation, is generally not allowed. TTB further emphasizes that holders of personalized label approvals cannot add “personalized statements, graphics, pictorial or emblematic representations that are not allowed on labels that undergo TTB review.” Industry members are also reminded that TTB’s label regulations—including prohibited label statements—still apply to personalized labels approved by TTB. Much of this remains consistent with TTB’s prior guidance document from 2011.

For more information on wine or alcohol law, 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.

 

Lindsey A. Zahn

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Lindsey is the founder and author of On Reserve: A Wine Law Blog. She is an alcohol beverage and food attorney and is admitted to the New York State Bar.

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