Napa’s JaM Cellars is suing The Wine Group, producer of the popular boxed wine label Franzia, for trademark infringement and unfair competition, according to a complaint filed this month in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
The suit alleges that a recent repackaging of a variety of The Wine Group’s Franzia brand, made to include the words “bold and jammy,” violates JaM Cellars’ trademark of the use of the word “jam” in association with wines. The phrasing, as well as its distinctive presentation on the new Franzia packaging, is an attempt to capitalize upon JaM Cellars’ reputation and success, the lawsuit alleges.
The word ‘jam’ is not a known or common descriptor of wines, JaM Cellars has said – a fact the winery argues is reinforced by its trademark. Therefore, the word’s use is “inherently distinctive” to JaM Cellars’ brand, the suit says. It seeks to bar The Wine Group from using the phrase “bold & jammy” in relation to any of its wines, and to have existing boxes displaying the phrase recalled.
The Wine Group could not be reached for a comment as of Friday. Attorneys for JaM Cellars did not reply to a request for a comment.
The Wine Group announced in April of last year that it would relaunch its Franzia label with a new, multi-million- dollar campaign, the lawsuit says. The campaign included the new packaging, as well as new products – including a new Chardonnay, called Rich & Buttery, and the Cabernet upon which this particular lawsuit is focused, Bold & Jammy.
Two of JaM Cellars’ most popular labels are Butter, a Chardonnay, and JaM, its signature Cabernet. JaM Cabernet has since 2009 sold almost 1.6 million bottles nationwide, producing dollar sales of more than $16 million. (Sales from all of its labels make up more than $233 million, the suit notes).
JaM Cellars has spent more than $35 million promoting and advertising its wines, gradually building up its brand recognition with consumers, the suit says.
As a result of those significant advertising expenditures, use of the word “jam” has “also acquired distinctiveness among wine consumers,” attorneys for JaM Cellars wrote in the complaint, implying an inherent connection of the word with the company’s labels.
JaM Cellars previously sued The Wine Group in 2017 for its use of the adjective “Butterkissed” in connection with the group’s Cupcake Vineyards brand Chardonnay, the suit says. That suit was “resolved to mutual satisfaction,” according to the document, which notes that The Wine Group shifted its use of “butterkissed” to a smaller sub-brand.
JaM Cellars is also suing over The Wine Group’s use of the name “Rich & Buttery,” alleging similar infringement; that litigation is still pending.
Besides seeking to bar The Wine Group from prominently using the phrase “Bold & Jammy,” the suit filed earlier this month also asks that The Wine Group pay JaM Cellars’ attorney fees, “punitive” damages and additional monetary damages resulting from conflation of the two companies. The complaint does not specify an amount.
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