Awards and citations:

1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Duckhorn – a complete nonsense to sue over 'duck'

Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot 

Duck Commander Triple Threat Red Blend

Looks like the silly season, normally confined to August, has started eight months early with the news that Duckhorn is suing Sutter Home Winery and Wal-Mart claiming that the recently launched Duck Commander range are too close to their own name and labels. 

I can't see that Duckhorn's claim has any merit. How can you claim a right over the name 'Duck'? The two labels above have little in common, so it is difficult how consumers could be confused. Perhaps Duckhorn took the 'Triple Threat' name too seriously?

If Duckhorn are looking to sue duck look-a-likes then the great Luis Pato ought to be a target as the ducks featured on the respective labels have some resemblances.      

Luis Pato's Vinha Formal – Pato is Portuguese for 
duck hence the duck on the label

Hopefully the relevant judge will throw out the Duckhorn case as having absolutely no merit. If it does have any merit then will we, for instance, see Latour suing La Tour de By and many other La Tours, Lafite suing Laffitte-Teston etc. In the Loire this would be a gift to ther legal profession with Mabileau suing Mabileau, Crochet suing lots of other Crochets, Riffault doing the same etc with their namesakes and many other examples.

No this Duckhorn case joins the list of infamously no merit wine related legal cases, which include:

         * Gallo's suit against Chianti Classico's Gallo Nero
* Veuve Clicquot's suit against Tasmanian 
sparkling wine producer Stefano Lubiano
* Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC)'s 
suit against the Swiss village of Champagne          


Robert Joseph said...

Not precisely Jim. You really can't sensibly compare this legal tussle with the others you list. The Sutter Home Duck range consists of Californian wines that will be sold on the same market as Duckhorn's own Californian wines. Duckhorn also owns other brands such as Decoy, Migration and Paraduxx, all of which exploit the duck image.

Duckhorn have not sued Pato because his wines aer unlikely to have a commercial impact on the Duckhorn brands. Pato can also claim that his name allows the use of the fowl. I suspect a decent lawyer will have no difficulty in establishing that Sutter Home and WalMart were both fully aware of the Duckhorn brands when deciding on the name for their new brand.

I have no axe to grind in this case and actually agree with you 100% regarding the other cases.

Jim Budd said...

Thanks Robert. I agree it may not be as clear cut as the other cases and that the two companies are in the same market if not always at the same price point. It is, however, a big step to requisition the name 'duck' on this basis and would set a very unfortunate precedent.

David R said...

Regarding the other cases you mention, even if you (and I) believe they had no merit, I seem to recall that Gallo won, Veuve Clicquot won and the CIVC won(eventually)! So maybe the unfortunate precedent has already been set.

Jim Budd said...

David. I'm sure you are right. Certainly plenty of examples and precedents of large organisations throwing their legal muscle about. Interestingly in this case Wal-Mart is a very big fish to take on.

wcs said...

Never underestimate the American propensity to litigate! After baseball, I think it's the national pass-time.

Duckhorn (chardonnay, I think) was a favorite of my boss when I worked in Silcon Valley.

Jim Budd said...

Thanks Walt. I don't underestimate the legal reflex! Jim