Brand Battles: Booze Battles
By Bill Donahue
January 29, 2016
In Law360’s latest roundup of new actions at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, intellectual property powerhouse Finnegan faces a new challenge in its bid to register the name of its IP newsletter, Rihanna moves to protect her name, and Anheuser-Busch goes after a “Bub” beer.
Vodka is all the rage in the world of trademark law these days.
Earlier this month, the Second Circuit handed down a ruling in a long-running legal battle over the trademark rights to Stolichnaya vodka, finding that a Russian state-owned company had standing to sue the brand’s U.S. owners in federal court.
Now, this week, three separate proceedings were launched at TTAB over vodka brands.
H-E-B Grocery Stores, a 370-store Texas supermaket chain, opposed an application from Texas distiller JEM Beverage Company LLC for “Hill Country Vodka” – likely because H-E-B’s private-label grocery brand is “Hill Country Fare.”
A California company called Vinolio Exports and Imports LLC, which owns a registration for “Justice” for selling wine, moved to cancel a registration held by Justice Beverages LLC for “Justice Vodka.”
And finally Fifth Generation Inc., the producers of Tito’s Handmade Vodka, went after an application for “Titomirov Vodka,” a brand that bills itself as “the first vodka in the world with perfectly balanced alkalinity.”
According to Tito’s, the “Titomirov” mark was initially refused for being confusingly similar to the Tito’s brand. But Titomirov apparently responded to that refusal with a claim that it “smacks of ethnic bias,” and then, at some point, the examiner changed his or her mind.
“For reasons unknown by reviewing the record … and completely inconsistent with the arguments set forth in the [refusal], the examiner eventually approved the application,” the company wrote in its opposition this week.
Fifth Generation is represented by Vinson & Elkins LLP. Titomirov is represented by Wenderoth Lind & Ponack LLP. H-E-B is represented by Pirkey Barber PLLC. JEM is represented by Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig PLLC. Vinolio is represented by Dickenson Peatman & Fogarty PLC. Justice Beverages is represented by its own attorneys. The case number for the Titomirov case is 91226034. The case number for the Hill Country case is 91226062. The case number for the Justice case is 92063027.