In evaluating a new name or label for your wine, it is important to keep in mind that in the USPTO’s opinion, all alcoholic beverages are related. One of the main purposes of the Lanham Act (the U.S. Trademark Laws), is to protect a brand’s distinctiveness by prohibiting the use of other marks that are so similar they are likely to cause confusion among customers. In deciding whether there is a strong likelihood of confusion (which could lead to the refusal to register a proposed trademark or worse, liability for trademark infringement), one of the key factors that is considered is the relatedness of the products offered under the similar marks. Last month, the Trademark Trials and Appeals Board (“TTAB”) refused registration of the mark “Masquerade” for sparkling wine, finding that it was confusingly similar to the registered mark “Mascarade” for “mixed beverage containing alcohol and fruit juice.” (See In re 8 Vini, Inc., Serial No. 85857391 (January 16, 2015).) The TTAB has recently issued similar holdings in cases concerning proposed trademarks for beer that were similar to existing registered marks for wine as well. (See, e.g., The Bruery, LLC, Serial No. 85656671 (September 24, 2014).) In the latter, the TTAB noted that it believed it was not uncommon for craft/microbreweries to also produce wine in issuing its decision.

As these recent cases make clear, it is not enough that the marks are not identical (or that you are using a correct, as opposed to misspelled, word) if you want to avoid an adverse ruling from the TTAB. A trademark attorney can assist you in evaluating the likelihood that your proposed new name or label will face challenges, and in filing the appropriate disclaimers to avoid refusal, while still assuring protection of your brand.


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