Duckhorn Wine Co. of St. Helena has filed a lawsuit against a New York winery over its duck labels, alleging breach of contract.
The Napa Valley winery accuses Duck Walk Vineyards Inc. of Long Island, N.Y., of failing to indicate its geographic location on its bottles’ front labels, leading to consumer confusion, according to the complaint filed Jan. 15 in Napa County Superior Court.
In 2003, the two companies settled a trademark suit in federal court after Duck Walk agreed to a number of restrictions, including placing the wine’s place of origin on the New York bottles’ front label, according to court documents. Under the settlement, Duck Walk also agreed not to produce and/or bottle more than 84,000 gallons of wine with the word “Duck” or pictures of ducks on the label unless they’re part of the corporate name “Duck Walk Vineyards Inc.”
According to Duckhorn’s 11-page complaint, “Under the settlement agreement, Duck Walk has limited ability to produce wine with duck images on the labels, and production and the geographic distribution of those duck labeled wines is also limited. The agreement explicitly requires Duck Walk to place certain geographic designation on their wine labels so that the consumer looking at the wine can clearly and readily distinguish the Duck Walk New York wines from Duckhorn’s famous California wines.”
“They have not honored their agreement,” Henry Bunsow, a San Francisco attorney who represents Duckhorn Wine, said of the 2003 federal settlement.
But lawyers for Duck Walk said their client has complied with the rules and that Duckhorn do not own the word “duck.”
“They can sue us all they want. They won’t win,” said Steven Schlesinger, of Garden City, N.Y., one of the attorneys who represents Duck Walk. “We just agreed we were Duck Walk,” he said, referring to the federal settlement.
Duckhorn, which has not specified monetary damages in its complaint, said it wants Duck Walk to stop selling wines without the labeling agreed upon in 2003. The company also wants Duck Walk Vineyards to stop selling 50 percent of its wine production outside New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Duckhorn Vineyards, founded in 1976, sells wines throughout the United States and 40 countries overseas, with its least costly wines priced slightly under $20. It owns vineyards throughout the Anderson and Napa valleys. Duckhorn’s duck-themed wines include Paraduxx, Goldeneye, Migration and Decoy, according to the court documents.
According to Duck Walk’s website, the company sells a wide range of wines, including dessert wines, sparkling wines and red and whites blends with prices that start under $10. The company owns about 1,000 acres in the Hamptons, Schlesinger said.
A hearing is scheduled for June 25.