Farella Braun + Martel Client Fetzer Vineyards Prevails in Trademark Trial
SAN FRANCISCO (September 21, 2017): Following a week-long trial, California Federal Judge William H. Orrick ruled in favor of Farella Braun + Martel LLP client Fetzer Vineyards, a Hopland-based winery known for pioneering sustainable winemaking. The case arose from allegations by Sazerac Company, Inc. that the label of Fetzer Vineyards’ 1000 Stories zinfandel, which features an image of a buffalo and uses the phrase “bourbon barrel aged,” somehow infringed certain trademarks related to or the trade dress associated with Sazerac’s Buffalo Trace bourbon brand.
In his decision, Judge Orrick soundly rejected all of Sazerac’s claims, writing “in the final analysis, this case was not close.” Judge Orrick found that Sazerac “failed to present any evidence that Sazerac’s buffalo logo creates the same commercial impression as Fetzer’s buffalo.” He also dismissed Sazerac’s contention that Fetzer Vineyards adopted the 1000 Stories trade dress with the intent of causing consumer confusion, finding both that Sazerac failed to present any evidence to support that contention and that Fetzer Vineyards “presented compelling evidence of the story behind its decision to select the American buffalo [as the icon for] its 1000 Stories brand.” Judge Orrick concluded that “there is no likelihood of confusion between Sazerac’s Buffalo Trace and Fetzer Vineyards’ 1000 Stories.”
Sazerac originally sought monetary damages, but in an April 2017 ruling, the court granted partial summary judgment, dismissing Sazerac’s damages claims. The court also partially granted Fetzer Vineyards' request for judgment on the infringement claims, trimming several of the asserted trademarks from the case.
Farella’s Robert C. Holtzapple served as Fetzer Vineyards’ lead counsel, trying the case with Steven R. Disharoon of Wood Smith Henning & Berman LLP.
(Sazerac Co. Inc. v. Fetzer Vineyards, 3:15-cv-04618, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California)
Farella Braun + Martel represents clients throughout the United States and abroad in sophisticated business transactions and complex commercial, civil and criminal litigation. Farella lawyers are known for their imaginative legal solutions to today’s business challenges, dynamism and intellectual creativity. With an unwavering service ethic and interdisciplinary team approach, the firm is committed to advancing clients' objectives in the most effective, coordinated and efficient manner. Founded in 1962, the firm is headquartered in San Francisco and maintains an office in the Napa Valley focused on the wine industry.