Wine, Women, and Lawsuits?

I was thinking about cranberry wine a few weeks ago, and mentioned that a local winery made some. It turns out that they call it “Cranberry Jubilee,” and I suspect the wording is deliberate. They’d probably get into legal trouble if they called their 20% cranberry 80% Chardonnay blend “Cranberry Wine.” Well, they might have some legal trouble anyway, but over not over that.

A tiff over a name

The winery, owned by three women and known for its “working girl” series of wines, is named “Olympic Cellars,” after the Olympic Peninsula in which they are located. It turns out that the U.S. Olympic Committee has exclusive, far reaching, and iron fisted rights to the word “Olympic” in the U.S. This goes way beyond normal trademark law in that no business or organization may use the O word without their permission. Normally, other outfits may use trademarked words for unrelated products or services. That’s why Fidelity National Financial, a title insurance company, and Fidelity Investments, the mutual fund and brokerage company, aren’t at each other’s throats.

An “amicable” demand

So how did this little winery escape the wrath of The Committee up to now? There’s an exception to the Olympic and Amateur Sports Act for businesses in the geographical area. Olympic Cellars is located in the Olympic Peninsula, but The Committee’s lawyers have threatened to sue unless Olympic Cellars turns down internet orders from people who haven’t visited the winery. So, someone vacationing in the Olympic Peninsula that visits the winery and signs up for their newsletter can go back home and order wine from them over the internet. Even The Committee won’t complain about that, but if the neighbors hear about this great little winery and try to order some, Olympic Cellars is supposed to turn them down. If they were to ship that bottle of wine to the neighbors, it would, “dilute the committee’s control of its trademarked word, and confuse people about which companies are official Olympic supporters.” The Committee goes on to say, and I’m not making this up, that they want to settle the matter amicably.

Further reading

This article goes into detail about Olympic Cellars trouble with The Committee, and this one tells of an author who faced The Committee’s wrath over a travel guide.



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