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California Winery Files Trademark Infringement Suit Against Michigan Grapegrower

by Kerana Todorov
July 12, 2019

Graphic courtesy U.S. District Court

A California winery home to Roman Catholic Trappist monks in rural Tehama County has filed a trademark lawsuit against a Michigan grapegrower over the name “Aimée.”

Philip Sunseri, who co-owns New Clairvaux Vineyard in Vina with the Trappist monks, alleges in his federal lawsuit that Aimée Vineyards LLC infringed on the name “Aimée” – the name of a wine produced at the winery since 2008.

Sunseri and New Clairvaux Vineyard allege Aimée Vineyards’ use of “Aimée” is “likely” to confuse consumers and “irreparably” harm their own brand, according to the lawsuit. The plaintiffs seek to stop the Michigan company from using the name “Aimée.”

The plaintiffs said they have invested “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to build the brand Aimée which received federal trademark status in May 2013, according to the court filing.

In northern Michigan, Aimee Mali in September 2018 applied for a trademark for her Aimée Vineyards, where she planted 5 acres of grapes near Traverse City, according to that company’s website. The website started selling tumblers sporting the name “Aimée Vineyards” in February 2018, according to the complaint. Aimée Vineyards allegedly plans use proceeds from the tumblers’ sale to produce “Aimée” wine, according to Sunseri’s and New Clairvaux’ lawsuit.

Federal officials have questioned Mali’s application, citing the similarity with other marks, according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Mali filed a response in June. No final decision has been issued, according to the USPTO.

The plaintiffs sent a letter on June 6 to Aimée Vineyards demanding that the company immediately stop “infringing” on Sunseri’s protected trademark, according to the complaint. The defendant refused, according to the court filing.

Sunseri’s daughter, Aimée Sunseri, is listed as New Clairvaux Vineyard’s winemaker. The Sunseris are also associated with Nichelini Family Winery, their family winery in the Napa Valley, where Aimée is the winemaker.

Neither Mali nor a representative for New Clairvaux could not be reached to comment on this story.

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