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Davis Family Vineyards files lawsuit for trademark infringement

Published 15 December 2016

Healdsburg-based Davis Family Vineyards has filed a lawsuit for trademark infringement and unfair and deceptive trade practices against Napa Valley newcomer Davis Estates LLC and others in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Davis Family Vineyards is seeking a jury trial, injunctive relief, treble damages and attorneys' fees based on infringement of its registered DAVIS FAMILY VINEYARDS trademark.

In its complaint, Davis Family Vineyards alleges that use of the name 'Davis Estates' on wine infringes its well-known DAVIS FAMILY VINEYARDS trademark, which it has been using since the late 1990s.  

The complaint further contends that Davis Estates is unjustly benefiting from the Davis Family Vineyards' outstanding reputation as a source for ultra-premium wines, gained after 17+ years of sales of hundreds of thousands of bottles of wine prominently featuring the DAVIS FAMILY VINEYARDS mark.

The complaint cites multiple instances of actual consumer confusion: The first with a tour company that mistakenly sent its guests to Davis Estates winery and cave in Napa Valley.  

The second an article in the Napa Register that incorrectly named 'Davis Family Estates' when reporting on a series of controversial timber clearing requests near Angwin's famous Howell Mountain region that were sought by Davis Estates and/or its affiliates.

This error generated a considerable amount of negative publicity for Davis Family Vineyard, as several prominent organizations in the Napa Valley mistakenly sent them letters of concern instead of Davis Estates.

The third was a customer's confusion as to whether Davis Family Vineyards had opened a second tasting room, or relocated from its present location in Healdsburg, CA. 

A fourth instance of confusion cited in the complaint references a wine buyer in Texas purchasing wines after he was incorrectly told that the Davis Estates wines were associated with Davis Family Vineyards and its co-founder and winemaker, Guy Davis.

Davis Family Winery co-founder and owner Guy Davis said: "I feel as though pursuing legal protection is my only option at this stage.

"Our 20 years in the wine business has mostly been friendly and collaborative, where winemakers share ideas and look out for one another. It's not been about stealing and deceit. We tried several times, in person and through written correspondence, to resolve the brand confusion caused by Davis Estates in Napa Valley.

"Boxes and boxes, full of materials demonstrating our brand usage for the last 20 years, were shown to Michael Davis and his attorney. Industry standards that set precedent were shared with him since he's a newcomer to the business, such as the surnames Mondavi (Robert Mondavi Winery, Michael Mondavi Family Estates, C.K. Mondavi) and Smith (Charles Smith, Smith & Hook, W.H. Smith, Smith-Madrone Vineyards), which showed alternatives that he could readily model a name after.

"He promised time and again to do something, but it has been over a year without resolution. Their actions impact our business, confusing wholesale vendors, restaurant buyers and new and long-time Davis Family Winery consumers.

"Their winery also earned bad press due to their desire to clear-cut land in Angwin, California, in Napa County, causing community outrage and backlash inaccurately directed toward us.

"Of course, I'd like Michael Davis to enjoy and succeed in the wine industry. I'd also like him to adopt a sense of comradery rather than bulldozing his way in and taking business that my family has worked hard to earn."

The consumer confusion continues. As recently as December 2, 2016, consumers who had previously attended a Davis Family Vineyards winemaker dinner at the two-star Michelin restaurant, Melisse mistakenly emailed Davis Estates regarding requests to purchase Davis Family Vineyards wine. 

The consumers were looking to acquire Davis Family Vineyards wine for an event for 25-30 people to be held on December 10, 2016. 

Unfortunately, the email was not forwarded to Davis Family Vineyards until after December 10, 2016, thus causing Davis Family Vineyards to miss a significant sale and the opportunity to further connect with its customers.

Source: Company Press Release