One True Vines, the company who operates several wineries in California and sells its wine under the “Layer Cake” brand, sued Massachusetts-based Liquor Brands, an import company, accusing them of trade dress infringement and false designation of origin under state and federal law. True Vines alleges that Liquid Brands’ new wine, sold under the “Cigar Box” brand, uses a label and bottle that look “almost identical” to the label and bottle True Vines uses for its Layer Cake wines. The cases did not proceed far, however, when a Federal Court judge ruled that the court in California did not have specific jurisdiction over Liquid Brands.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals uses a three-part test for analyzing specific jurisdiction pursuant to Yahoo Inc. v. La Ligue Contre Le Racisme Et L’Antisemitisme, 433 F.3d 1199, 1206 (9th Cir. 2006).  The test requires that:

•           A defendant purposely directed his activities or conducted a transaction with the forum state or resident.

•           The claim must arise from or relate to the defendant’s forum-related activities.

•           The exercise of jurisdiction must comport with fair play and substantial justice.

According to U.S. District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong of the Northern District of California, the most that Liquid Brands did to make its wines available in California was allegedly to send samples to the owner of a local market who declined to carry Cigar Box wines. Judge Armstrong concluded that this was not sufficient reason to call the Massachusetts company into a California court.

More information on the case, One True Vine LLC v. Liquid Brand LLC, et al., No. C 10-04102, is available from the court.



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