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Courtwatch: Verve Wine Country LLC Versus Verve Management LLC

by Kerana Todorov
June 13, 2018
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defendants' marketing material - Images included in the complaint Verve Wine Country LLC filed against Verve Management LLC in U.S. District Court.

 

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plaintiff's design - Images included in the complaint Verve Wine Country LLC filed against Verve Management LLC in U.S. District Court

A Napa Valley-based wine tour company owner alleges a company founded by celebrity sommelier Dustin Wilson infringes on her company's name and logos, according to a federal lawsuit filed in the Northern District of California.

Mary "T" Beller, the owner of Napa-based Verve Wine Country LLC, alleges Verve Management LLC has been infringing on its name “Verve” to sell similar services, according to the complaint filed on May 25 in U.S. District Court.

Napa-based Verve Wine Country offers concierge services, food education, winemaking and wine blending classes, and other services. Verve Management operates Verve Wine stores in New York and San Francisco. In addition, the company sells wine online. Verve Wine also offers "The Grand Tour by Verve Wine" a wine club program that focuses on selected wine regions of the world.

Beller said she met Wilson in November 2012 at the premiere of "Somm" at the Napa Valley Wine Festival, according to the lawsuit. The documentary featured Wilson and three other wine stewards as they prepared for the master sommelier exam. Beller said she brought her company’s Mercedes Sprinter to the festival to promote her brand and gave Wilson her Verve business card, according to the complaint.

Four years later, Verve Management started doing business under the names “Verve”, “Verve Management”, “Verve Wine”, “Verve Wine & Spirits," and “The Grand Tour by Verve Wine” using the taglines, “Expertly Curated” and “Sommelier Curated Wines,” according to the complaint.

In April 2018, Beller learned that Verve Management, which already operated a retail store in New York City, was opening a new Verve Wine store in San Francisco, according to the lawsuit.

Beller alleges the defendants’ marks are "confusingly similar" to Verve Wine Country's marks and has led to confusion in the marketplace, according to the complaint.

Their “infringement has unjustly increased the profitability of Defendants’ business to the detriment of Verve Wine Country, and at no cost to Defendants,” according to the complaint.

Beller also has used the tagline "Curated Wine Country Tours and Events" since 2014. In April, Beller filed an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to register “Curated Wine Country Tours and Events.”

“We’ve been talking with their management, and I am optimistic that we’ll find a way to eliminate the confusion this is causing for our valued clients and partners,” Beller said in an email.

A representative for Verve Management representative on Monday denied the complaint’s allegations. “This lawsuit appears to be the result of Verve Wine’s refusal to pay the outrageous demands made by Ms. Beller and her company,” Madeline Wheeler, a company representative, said in an email, referring to money and other components. “To be clear, Verve Wine denies the allegations in the complaint and will forcefully defend the case and pursue its own claims,” Wheeler said.

Beller said "This thing is nothing short of a nightmare for me personally, and I feel that their characterization 'outrageous' is obviously rather unfair. I have tried to be reasonable, under the circumstances, but this is my entrepreneurial baby - I have worked tirelessly for seven years to create the successful brand that Verve is today -- but instead I am just being marginalized and discounted."

The complaint alleges trademark infringement, unfair competition, trade dress infringement and unfair business practices under California’s business and professional code, according to the court filing.


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