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Trademarks for Wines and Wineries

Brands and trademarks can be very important for wineries, especially in places where there are a lot of them, like in New York’s Finger Lakes region.

Trademarks are the brand names that buyers use to identify the wines that originate from you or your winery. These brand names directly connect with the goodwill you have established in your product.

Your wine brands are important to safeguard and protect because the brands you have used for years for your wines, be they chardonnay, pinot noir, or another variety, as they have become associated in the buyer’s mind with the taste, freshness, “nose” and quality of your wine. Wines from another winery, where you don’t choose or harvest the grapes, and don’t control the vinification and bottling, can be misidentified as yours if they have a brand that is too similar to yours. That is why you should try and ensure that your trademarks and brands are distinctive and protected.

Trademarks should be distinctive, that is, not too descriptive of the product or even of the region. So a good trademark can be one that is arbitrary, or possibly even the owner’s name IF that has been used as a brand for several years so that it has acquired a secondary, or “brand” meaning through extensive use.

Wine brands become trademarks by your using them on products you sell, but they become stronger if you can register them as Registered Trademarks. If they are already distinctive, that can be a straightforward and inexpensive process. Registration makes the wine brand easier to enforce, if a competitor’s wine name happens to be too similar. Conversely, it is also important to make sure when you want to adopt a brand that it doesn’t conflict with someone else’s established wine brand. Having your attorney run a trademark search can help with that.