The fight over the Franzia's use of RICH & BUTTERY in connection with its boxed Chardonnay continues. If you're just joining us, we're following the ongoing battle (via two pending lawsuits) between JaM Cellars Inc. and the maker of Franzia boxed wines regarding Franzia's use of "Bold & Jammy" with burgundy-colored packaging for Cabernet Sauvignon, and "Rich & Buttery" with yellow packaging for Chardonnay. JaM claims these uses infringe on JaM's rights in (and federal registrations for) JAM and BUTTER for wine.
This latest round focuses on the lawsuit concerning Franzia's Chardonnay, where Franzia asked for summary judgment against JaM, arguing that there was no likelihood of confusion and even if there was, that Franzia was entitled to a fair use defense.
While the court was unwilling to wrap up the case at the summary judgment stage, it did indicate that it was open to Franzia's arguments, and voiced some discomfort with the aggressive position taken by JaM Cellars.
The court felt that summary judgment was not appropriate because it concluded that material issues of fact exist regarding the strength of Jam Cellars' BUTTER mark, the relatedness of the parties' goods, and the similarity of the parties' marks. Unfortunately that was the last of the goods news for JaM Cellars. The court concluded that it "has some reason to be concerned based on this and other lawsuits that Plaintiff may be effectively attempting to monopolize use of the term 'buttery' to describe Chardonnay." As I mentioned in my last blog post about the lawsuits between these two wine producers, JaM Cellars is taking a risk here in that its trademarks for JAM and BUTTER could be found descriptive and ineligible for protection. The court's comment above certainly seems to indicate that possibility is real.
On behalf of wine lover everywhere, we'll continue to keep an eye on these proceedings.
"While the Court has some reason to be concerned based on this and other lawsuits that Plaintiff may be effectively attempting to monopolize use of the term “buttery” to describe Chardonnay, summary judgment is not warranted. It remains to be seen whether judgment as a matter of law may be appropriate at or after trial."