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Mommy Wine Wars: MommyJuice v. Mommy’s Time Out

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Red wine, yellow wall by Quinn Dombrowski on Flickr

Image by Quinn Dombrowski on Flickr

Many mothers are well aware of the so-called Mommy Wars between stay-at-home and work-out-of-the-home moms, but the latest battle is legal in nature — and it’s about wine.

According to a Reuters report, Clos LaChance Wines is asking a San Francisco federal court to rule that its “MommyJuice” brand doesn’t violate the trademark held by the makers of “Mommy’s Time Out” wine.

“MommyJuice” comes in a white Chardonnay and a mixed red that includes Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot; “Mommy’s Time Out” is also available in both red and white versions. The labels are quite different, though; “MommyJuice” features a caricatured woman in lotus position juggling a teddy bear, house, computer, and cooking pot whereas “Mommy’s Time Out” shows a typical toddler time-out scene — an empty chair facing a corner — plus a nearby table with a wine bottle and wine glass on it.

Clos LaChance maintains that “Mommy” is a “generic word that [Mommy’s Time Out] doesn’t have a monopoly on,” according to one of the company’s attorneys. No one from “Mommy’s Time Out” has commented.

Wine labels often find their ways into lawsuits, especially with the booming California wine industry producing many new brands each year. There are even whole blogs dedicated to wine law, such as On Reserve and The Wine Law Blog.

Remember that a trademark is any word, name, slogan, design, or symbol used in commerce to identify a product, thereby distinguishing it from others. Trademark owners have exclusive rights in their use in commerce, and an owner’s rights to a trademark arise once it is used as a distinctive mark in commerce. Although one need not register a trademark for it to be enforceable, proving ownership is obviously easier with the magic paper from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and also gives owners the right to sue for damages in the event of infringement.

The theory behind trademarking is consumer protection, that is, allowing buyers to rely on a particular brand, even equating it with a certain level of quality — which is why the test as to whether there has been infringement is whether a rival’s mark is likely to create confusion in the minds of consumers.

What do you think of this Mommy wine dispute?

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April 27th, 2011 at 10:42 am