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04.27.2011  
 

'Mommy' Wines May Battle in Court

California's Clos La Chance files suit to protect MommyJuice brand

 
by Jane Firstenfeld
 
 
Mommy's Time Out MommyJuice wine
 
In response to a demand letter from Selective Wine Estates, which imports Mommy's Time Out white wine, Clos La Chance filed a complaint for declaratory relief on behalf of its MommyJuice wines.
San Martin, Calif.Clos La Chance, a 60,000-case estate winery in the Central Coast AVA, filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in response to a challenge from Selective Wine Estates. Attorneys for Selective, an importer/distributor based in East Hanover, N.J., sent a series of letters within the past month claiming that MommyJuice, a Clos La Chance label introduced last fall, infringes on Selective’s trademark for two Italian imports labeled Mommy’s Time Out, a Garganega/Pinot Grigio white blend, and Rosso Primitivo red wine.

On April 18, Clos La Chance filed a complaint for declaratory relief in U.S. Northern District Court. Its document for Case No. 11-1848 explained that a Demand Letter sent by Selective counsel “charged that the sales by La Chance of MommyJuice White Wine” (and, implicitly, MommyJuice Red Wine) “constituted trademark infringement in violation of federal and state law” and demanded the winery cease and desist using the names and “abandon its TTB Certificate of Label Approval.”

The Demand Letter “threatened to seek permanent injunction against Clos La Chance’s use of the name MommyJuice in connection with wine…and monetary damages and costs” for intentional and deliberate trademark infringement.

So, Clos la Chance lawyered up and filed first. According to the complaint, “There has been a threat, followed by an attempt to negotiate, followed by a refusal to back down, and therefore, a case and/or controversy has arisen.”

Selective, according to online sources, is a relatively small company, grossing an estimated $150,000 in sales annually, with only two employees. Through a publicist, its president, Michael Cincotta, declined to comment about the dispute.

On the other hand, Clos La Chance marketing vice president Cheryl Murphy Durzy (daughter of winery founders/owners Bill and Brenda Murphy), was eager to speak with Wines & Vines this morning.

A brand is born
Durzy, a mother of two young children, is the brain behind the MommyJuice brand, which debuted in fall 2011 and is distributed in 14 states and two Canadian provinces. As a wine-loving mother, she explained, she wants her offspring to be well educated about wine consumption and believes this tutelage is the function of parents, not marketers.

She acknowledged that the name has not been without controversy. “People love it or hate it,” she said, but pointed that “mommy juice” was already an entry in the online Urban Dictionary: “A drink for a mom. Beer or liquor for a mom that is tired of dealing with her screaming kids. ‘Honey, stop at Uncle Bud’s on the way home and pick up some mommy juice for me....’ ” Mommy juice T-shirts, mugs and magnets are for sale at the dictionary site.

Durzy’s children inspired the brand name: “Mommy’s got her mommy juice.” The product, she emphasized, is “not being marketed to children.” She added, “Many wines are geared toward females.” Clos la Chance also markets a wine for vegans, The Vegan Vine. “Maybe I’ll make a vegan MommyJuice,” Durzy suggested.

MommyJuice white, which retails for $10 per 750ml bottle, is made with Central Coast Chardonnay; the red is a blend of Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon (77%), Merlot (16%), Malbec (2%), Cabernet Franc (2%) and Petit Verdot (2%). Target is now testing the brand in Northern California, and Durzy said the retail giant will display it prominently for Mothers Day promotions.

According to the lawsuit, “Selective has no valid and exclusive trademark rights…in the word ‘Mommy,’ standing alone and/or in conjunction with other letters, for wines.”

Durzy added, “This is so not what the wine industry is all about. We’re about collaboration and camaraderie. It’s unfortunate.”

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