March 06, 2007
Inman Family Wines Introduces New Label after Settling Trademark Suit
by Mary-Colleen Tinney
Inman Family Wines has been forced to introduce new labeling as the result of a settlement reached with the Australian winery Penfolds over the use of the word "Grange" on the front of Inman Family's labels. The new label refers to Olivet Grange Vineyard, the source of Inman's estate-grown fruit in Sonoma's Russian River Valley, as the acronym OGV.
In 2005, Inman Family Wines, an artisanal producer of small lots, was approached by Penfolds, part of the Foster's Wine Estates portfolio, with a demand that they cease using "Grange" on their labels. Penfolds produces an ultra-premium Australian Shiraz called Grange Hermitage. They claimed that the Inman's use of the word violated their trademark and would cause damage to their business, even though the use of the term on the Inman label simply referred to the name of their vineyard.
Kathleen Inman, winemaker and owner of Inman Family Wines, along with her husband Simon, settled the dispute in April 2006 by agreeing to remove "Grange" from their front label. "It's extremely upsetting that we had to do this," said Kathleen Inman. "When one party has a lot deeper pockets than the other, that's an unfair battle. And there's no way to recoup that money even if we had won the case. It seemed easier to go to the acronym. It's commercially the right thing to do, but it's just difficult to communicate to all our customers what is going on."
Although they are barred from using the word grange on the winery's front label, Inman Family Wines can still use the word on their website, marketing materials and back label. According to Inman, there are over 700 wine brands that use the word grange on their packaging.
"They have done this in Australia," said Inman of Penfolds. "Even more than here, grange is a very traditional name for a farm. Once they were able to get a trademark on this very generic term-which I think was a mistake to begin with-they started going after all the Australian wineries using that name."
In addition to producing their own wines, the Inmans have also sold fruit from their vineyard to other California Pinot Noir producers. All fruit purchased from the Inmans will now be labeled as Inman Olivet Vineyard. "It's been a slightly bigger problem for people who've been making wine from our vineyard," said Inman. "It's confusing to consumers that it's now called Inman Olivet Vineyard. They might not realize it is the same vineyard that the winery had been using."
Inman said that while she was aware of the Penfolds Grange when she chose the name, she did not believe there was any "serious prospect of consumer confusion" between the powerhouse Australian Shiraz and her roughly 1,000-case production of Russian River Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. The Inmans bought the vineyard in 1999 after relocating to Sonoma County from England, where the family had lived on an 11-acre property known as The Grange.
"When we decided to return to the wine world, we sold that beautiful house to carry on the tradition of using one dream to fund another. It's very sad for me because the word grange so perfectly described the house and the vineyard," said Inman. "It means a small farm with out buildings. When we found the vineyard, it had a cute craftsman farmhouse and several beautiful small barns. It perfectly described the property."
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