- Homepage for the Wine Industry

Sutter Home Winery Inc. Sues New York company for allegedly misusing "Napa Cellars" trademark

by Kerana Todorov
October 07, 2019
Copy of flyer showing Clos De Napa Cellars bottle with Napa Cellars mark. Sutter Home Wnery Inc. filed a complaint against Tri-Vin Imports Inc. over the mark. Graphic courtesy of U.S. District Court.

Sutter Home Winery Inc. is suing a New York-based wine company for up to $2 million for alleged trademark infringement for misusing the Napa Valley company’s trademark “Napa Cellars,” according to the lawsuit.

The St. Helena-based company alleges that Tri-Vin Imports Inc., a wine distributor and importer registered in New Rochelle, N.Y., used Sutter Home’s Napa Cellars mark to sell a wine called “Clos de Napa,” according to the complaint filed Oct. 2 in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California. Tri-Vin has wine brands such as Clos de Napa Cellars that are “produced exclusively for distribution by TVI,” according to the complaint.

Also named in the lawsuit is Marc Oliveira, identified in the complaint as a vice president of sales for Tri-Vin. Oliveira was the applicant in April 2019 for the mark “Clos De Napa” for “Wines derived from grapes grown in the Napa Valley American Viticultural Area, labeled and advertised in compliance with United States laws for the Napa Valley American Viticultural Area appellation of origin.”

Sutter Home seeks a court order to have Tri-Vin Imports stop using the Clos de Napa Cellars mark to sell alcoholic beverages, according to the complaint. The plaintiff also wants a court order to have Tri-Vin Imports and its affiliates destroy labels, corks, advertisements, and other materials with the Clos de Napa Cellars mark.

Sutter Home alleges Tri-Vin referred to Clos De Napa bottles as Wine Cellars wines, according to the lawsuit. Sutter Home also alleges a technical sheet for the 2018 Clos De Napa Cellars Sauvignon Blanc available on Tri-Vin’s website is “virtually an identical copy of the fact sheet” for Sutter Home’s 2018 Napa Cellars Sauvignon Blanc, according to the lawsuit.

The matter came to Sutter Home’s attention in October 2019 when Southern Glazer Wine and Spirits of Ohio told a Sutter Home a senior regional manager that a retailer store had a sales flyer advertising Clos de Napa Cabernet Sauvignon for $19.99 instead of $29.99, according to the lawsuit. The Napa Cellars mark was on top of the flyer, according to a graphics included in the court filing.

The manager of the retail store in Ohio asked a Southern Glazer Wines’ sales representative for pricing for Napa Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon wine, according to the lawsuit. However, the distributor’s sales representative was not familiar with a Clos de Napa Cellars being produced by Napa Cellars.

The retail manager had received the flyer from a sales representative from Euro USA, a distributor of Tri-Vin Imports in Ohio, according to the lawsuit.

The company accuses Tri-Vin of capitalizing “upon the great success of the Napa Cellars brand” and of unfairly competing with the Napa Cellars brand “by misleading consumers and distributors as to the origin of the Clos de Napa Cellars brand,” according to the complaint.

Napa Cellars has been in use since 1982, according to lawsuit. The wine is sold at retail outlets nationwide and online.

Copyright© 1994-2020 by Wine Communications Group. All Rights Reserved. Copyright protection extends to all written material, graphics, backgrounds and layouts. None of this material may be reproduced for any reason without written permission of the Publisher. Wine Business Insider, Wine Business Monthly, Grower & Cellar News and Wine Market News are all trademarks of Wine Communications Group and will be protected to the fullest extent of the law.