Friday, 31 January 2014

RSA - Wine trademark wars - Distell v Dombeya

A few days ago the Winetimes reported that Peter Haskell's Dombeya Wines has decided change the name of its Altus bordeux to Fenix after Distell threatened litigation alleging that Altus was infringing its Alto trademark.
source: Winetimes

According to its media release, Dombeya Wines is confident that it would have successfully defended any trademark infringement suit because 'the two words are spelled differently, and whilst one is a brand that covers an estate and a range of wines, the other is merely a ‘stage’ name for a wine within a completely dissociated brand'. However, Dombeya says it realised that even if it successfully defended the infringement claim, it would not recover its full  litigation costs which were estimated at 300 000 - 500 000 rand. It therefore decided to avert the threatened litigation by changing the name of Altus to Fenix. Dombeya also had to pay Distell's legal costs thus far. Stinging from this encounter, Dombeya described it as follows in its media release:

'With teeth gritted, we reluctantly decided to tuck our tail between our legs and agree to Distell’s demands to kill off Altus. However, not merely content with achieving their goal, they then demanded that we pay their legal fees to this point, or meet them in court. So, in a twisted, 21st century,‘Man bites Dog’ role reversal, we ended up having to give money to Distell to avoid winning our case, but losing anyway.'

Distell has not released a media statement on this matter, but it would certainly describe the dispute in different terms. 
Winetimes report here
Dombeya Wines media release 'From the ashes: Dombeya Fenix' here 

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