Archive: Legal

Special Events: Identifying Legal Issues – Part 2

Special events are a valuable source of supplemental income for wineries, but they also present a variety of legal concerns, which if not properly addressed may have significant consequences. In the first part of this article, we discussed limitations on holding special events as well as the winery’s responsibilities at such events. In this second part, we will discuss various types of events and the specific issues they raise. Weddings and Family Gatherings Vineyards provide an attractive backdrop for weddings, family reunions, and company retreats. Many wineries also have indoor event space perfect for receptions and other gatherings. While visiting a winery recently, I spoke with the owner who told me the following story. One Saturday afternoon, she was in […]

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Wine Labels 101: Navigating TTB’s COLA Process

The label approval process is unique to the alcohol beverage industry; most traditional foods (such as cookies, pasta, and sugar) are not subject to government pre-approval before being sold at market. Indeed, well before a wine reaches a store’s shelves or the hands of a consumer, the federal—and possibly even the state—government played a significant role in what must, what can, and what cannot appear on a wine label. The other unique aspect about wine labels—in comparison to distilled spirit or malt beverage labels—is that while most wine labels are subject to the labeling jurisdiction of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), wines under 7% alcohol by volume fall in the labeling jurisdiction of the Food and […]

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Endorsements Unique to the Wine Making Industry

                                      When I visit a winery for the first time, my number one priority is to first hand observe any exposures. I want to know the risks present for that particular winery. This is done by a number of steps, I meet with the owner and/or winemaker. We walk the facility and I am making notes of anything that might be of particular interest or concern to the underwriters. I have them complete a quick, but thorough supplemental questionnaire that gives me very specific information about their exposures. I also review their current policy for missing coverage or coverage gaps. There are […]

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Grape Purchase Agreements & Smoke Taint

As I traveled to Sacramento for this year’s Unified Wine and Grape Symposium, I began writing this article, intending to focus on key provisions of Grape Purchase Agreements (GPAs) that parties should negotiate. But, upon arrival at the symposium, I spoke with other conference attendees and it became clear that one thing was on everyone’s minds – smoke taint. Certainly, I had heard about the fires in October, but living on the East Coast, it was difficult to get any specific information about where the fires were located, what vineyards were affected, and the extent of the damage. I heard anecdotal bits of information from friends who live in the area and were reporting on the latest evacuations and there […]

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Wine Labels 201: Protecting Your Design

In the July/August Issue, The Grapevine published an article by attorney, Lindsey Zahn, entitled “Wine Labels 101: Navigating TTB’s COLA Process.” The article described the information that must be contained on the label as well as how the label gets approved for use. This article will discuss how to protect the design of the label. Aside from the required information relating to contents, origin, etc., a label contains many creative aspects, including: brand names, logos, pictures, drawings, color schemes, unique label shapes, backgrounds, and fanciful descriptions of the winery and the product. But, in a crowded market, how can those elements be protected against copying by competitors? There are three tools available to wineries to protect their labels: trademarks, trade […]

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Where Never is Heard a Disparaging Word … Until Now?

With apologies to Dr. Brewster Higley for changing the words to what would become the iconic folk song “Home on the Range,” a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision has opened the door to registration of a category of trademarks that would previously have been refused as “disparaging.” While the wine industry has typically not pushed the boundaries of disparaging marks, this case has implications for marks that are considered “scandalous” or “immoral,” as well. Further, this decision could dramatically affect the way that the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) reviews Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) applications. In March 2010, Simon Sciao Tam, frontman of the Asian-American rock band, “The Slants,” filed a trademark application for the band’s […]

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Wine Labels 101: Navigating TTB’s COLA Process

The label approval process is unique to the alcohol beverage industry; most traditional foods (such as cookies, pasta, and sugar) are not subject to government pre-approval before being sold at market. Indeed, well before a wine reaches a store’s shelves or the hands of a consumer, the federal—and possibly even the state—government played a significant role in what must, what can, and what cannot appear on a wine label. The other unique aspect about wine labels—in comparison to distilled spirit or malt beverage labels—is that while most wine labels are subject to the labeling jurisdiction of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), wines under 7% alcohol by volume fall in the labeling jurisdiction of the Food and […]

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INTERNATIONAL WINE TRADEMARKS: GROWING YOUR WINE BRANDS BEYOND THE BORDER

International demand for American wine continues to grow, with the Wine Institute reporting that wine exports revenue grew 7.6% between 2014 and 2015. Any winery considering crossing the border should be aware that their trademark rights are likely limited to the country or countries of registration and use. So, an American winery that has been proactive about securing rights to a wine name in the US will not have a claim to the name in Canada, or elsewhere outside the US. A Quick Note on International Wine Law Section 2(a) of the Trademark Act prohibits the registration of certain “geographical indications” in connection with wine (and spirits, but not beer), unless the wine actually originates in the related geographic place. […]

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Choosing the Right Trademark for Your Wine

The importance of choosing a high quality trademark for your wine cannot be overstated. At its core, a wine trademark is a means to quickly convey important information about a given wine. It’s shorthand. It says, “this wine originates from this producer.” And that’s important, because consumers who are inundated with a plethora of wines yearn for a quick, easy way to associate a producer with a product. Having a good trademark allows consumers to easily identify your product and distinguish it from everyone else’s. This way, both you and your consumers are better off. Trademark Quality So what constitutes a “good” trademark? One of the [more important] things that I learned in college was a bit of wisdom imparted […]

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The Vineyard Labor Crisis

Part I – Factors Contributing to the Worker Shortage Having enough help in the vineyard is the hottest topic for owners and managers in 2016, according to the results of the Vineyard Economics Survey conducted by the Wine Industry Symposium Group. Over half of survey respondents said labor was their top concern, followed by pests, water availability, and the political impact of the upcoming presidential election. There is good reason for concern. Overall in the U.S., a shortage of people to tend the fields is reducing fruit and vegetable production by 9.5%, or $3.1 billion, a year, according to a recently published analysis of government data by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a nonpartisan group that supports a […]

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