Napa Valley wine producer Duckhorn has filed legal action against a rival wine group and retail giant Wal-Mart, claiming that it has trademark rights over the word 'duck' on labels.
Duckhorn is suing Sutter Home Winery, owned by Trinchero Family Estates, and Wal-Mart over their respective parts in launching and selling a range of wines labelled Duck Commander in the US. The Napa producer is also suing Duck Commander Inc, a company owned by the Robertson family that is behind the popular US television show Duck Dynasty.
In the lawsuit, Duckhorn said that the ‘duck-style marks’ and duck motif on its bottle labels have become inextricably linked to its own wines. Duck Commander’s name and use of a duck logo is ‘confusingly similar’ for wine drinkers, it said.
Tension began building in the autumn of 2013, when Duckhorn discovered that Trinchero Family Estates and the Robertsons’ were set to launch the Duck Commander wines.
Duckhorn said the Robertson family has refused to meet, and that an initial meeting between it and Trinchero has not been followed up.
‘Since the meeting, Duckhorn has requested a response from Trinchero and the Robertson family, but Duckhorn’s request has been ignored,’ the group said in its court filing with the Northern District Court of California, San Francisco Division.
According to the filing, the defendants argued that other third parties have used the word ‘duck’ on wine labels and that their wines appeal to a different type of drinker.
‘As policy, we cannot comment on matters of pending litigation,’ a spokesperson for Trinchero told decanter.com.
Duck Commander wines retail for around $10-a-bottle. Most Duckhorn wines are priced at several times that amount, but Duckhorn said its wines are in ‘the same channels of distribution’ and are presented to the same potential buyers.
Written by Chris Mercer