It’s a sparkling story of David and Champagne Goliath. Only in this retelling of the story, the big guy has all the rocks.
Louis Roederer makes Crystals, a $300 bottle of champagne that adorns the ice buckets of the rich and famous. Landmass Wines is the small winery in Oregon that makes Crystal Visions, a $26 bottle of sparkling wine that graces backyard barbecues. The legendary French champagne house fears consumers will confuse the two brands, so it opposes Landmass’ attempt to trademark the Crystal Visions name.
Melaney Schmidt and Malia Myers are the sparkling wine specialists behind Landmass Wines at Cascade Locks. In 2019, the duo named a sparkling new pinot noir Crystal Visions in honor of their admiration for singer Stevie Nicks. The phrase “crystal visions” appears in the lyrics of Fleetwood Mac’s song “Dreams”.
In March 2021, Schmidt and Myers filed an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for the Crystal Visions brand. At that time, a trademark review attorney was assigned to review their application.
Examining Counsel’s review included a search of the USPTO database to search for conflicting marks. After deciding that Landmass Wines’ application met all legal requirements and did not conflict with any trademarks in the USPTO database, the examining attorney approved its trademark application for publication in the Official Journal of brands on September 7, 2021.
Once published, any member of the public has 30 days to object to a trademark application. On October 6, 2021, Louis Roederer’s legal representatives in the United States requested the first of two “time extensions to object”. On March 2, 2022, Louis Roederer filed his trademark opposition to Crystal Visions with the USPTO.
Myers and Schmidt said they were both surprised and incredibly frustrated when they first heard there was a problem with their trademark application.
“We worked so hard to create these brands and wine names. The names honor people who hold a special place in our hearts,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt said a letter from Louis Roederer’s legal representatives claimed their brand could confuse customers. Elizabeth Milesnick, a trademark litigation attorney at Idea Legal in Portland, calls consumer confusion or, in the case of proceedings before the Trademark Trial and Appeals Board, the risk of confusion, “the ultimate question of whether there is trademark infringement”.
Milesnick doesn’t think it’s such a difficult issue for people to deal with.
“Even if you’re not a brand expert, it’s pretty easy to get used to the idea that a consumer would see an item on a store shelf and probably be like, ‘I bet this is from that other company I know. said Milesnick.
Schmidt and Myers report that no one ever returned a bottle of Crystal Visions to them because they thought they were buying Cristal or any other champagne made by Louis Roederer.
Cristal is made from grapes from grand cru vineyards in the French region of Champagne. Cristal’s distinctive clear glass bottle is wrapped in gold cellophane to protect the wine from ultraviolet rays. The bottle has a sober label and a traditional cork. Cristal is also dear to and loved by both David and Victoria Beckham.
Crystal Visions is made with grapes from Underwood Mountain in the Columbia River Gorge, and it’s cellophane-free. The wine label is pure pop art and the bottle is sealed with a metal crown cork. Crystal Visions are inexpensive and it’s unclear if the Beckhams have ever taken advantage of them. If they did, they could buy a case of Crystal Visions for about the price of a bottle of Crystal.
The price difference alone between the two wines can be a determining factor in the risk of consumer confusion. Trademark attorney Richard Stim writes in the NOLO Legal Encyclopedia“Generally, a shopper making a very expensive purchase is more likely to discriminate and less likely to be easily confused with similar brands.”
The issue of confusion between Cristal and Crystal Visions will not be formally resolved. Schmidt and Myers are considering dropping their trademark application and renaming their sparkling pinot noir. Landmass Wines attorney Anne E. Koch of Wyse Kaddish LLP said it didn’t make financial sense to respond to Cristal’s opposition.
“At the end of the day, people with deep pockets have a distinct advantage,” Koch said.
While Myers understands the need for convenience, she doesn’t like how the system works.
“We’re told we can’t use something we’ve worked hard to create, just because we’re so small. It looks like bullying, and there’s nothing we can do about it,” Myers said.
As this article goes to press, the Landmass and Louis Roederer are holding final settlement discussions. Attempts to reach Louis Roederer’s attorneys for comment were unsuccessful.