6 California North Coast wine business law leaders reflect on trademarks, social media, overtime
Trademarks, bottle labeling and vineyard workers’ overtime issues are just some of the issues facing attorneys who work with wine industry clients.
Here, listed alphabetically, are several attorneys working in the wine industry and their answers to some questions posted by the Business Journal.
Warren L. Dranit
Spaulding McCullough & Tansil LLP
90th South E Street, Suite 200, Santa Rosa 95404
Biography: Dranit’s practice encompasses the protection and licensing of intellectual property assets including trademarks, copyrights, patents, trade secrets, and rights of publicity. Drawing on his background as a software engineer, he also advises clients on technology issues.
For many years, Dranit has been one of the North Bay’s leaders in intellectual property and technology law. He is former chair of the Executive Committee for the California State Bar’s Intellectual Property Section and currently serves as an adviser.
Dranit’s other professional activities include the Petaluma Area Chamber of Commerce, where he is a member of its Board of Directors and is chair of its Government Affairs Committee. He serves on the board of directors of Mentor Me, an organization dedicated to empowering youth to achieve their highest potential through mentoring and advocacy. He is a founder and organizer of the Petaluma Lawyers Club, a group of more than 100 attorneys focused on creating community among Petaluma lawyers.
Dranit graduated magna cum laude from the University of San Francisco School of Law. He has a technology background, including bachelors and masters degrees in mathematics / computer science and seven years experience developing technology software in the aerospace industry.
Please tell us the top three ways a small wine producer can protect against another, perhaps larger winery, from infringing on its trademark.
The top three ways to protect a wine brand are registration, registration, and registration. A properly obtained registration is the most cost effective means of establishing expanded rights in a mark and provides a solid foundation for enforcing those rights when the wine producer believes someone is using a mark that is confusingly similar. Closely tied with this process is selecting a mark that is inherently distinctive and does not rely on terms that are already used by many others in the industry. Although there is a lot of allure in selecting a brand that identifies a geographic location or includes the surname of one the founders, these marks tend to be more difficult to protect. Instead of being immediately protectable as trademarks, these terms first need to acquire recognition in the marketplace before trademark law recognizes there is a protectable right. It is also helpful for the trademark owner to be vigilant in enforcing their rights in the mark. It is typically much easier for any infringer, large or small, to cease use when they have less time and resources in invested in a brand. Also, failing to protect a mark can create the argument that the mark itself has become weak. The law is not contingent on whether the infringer is large or small. Rather, it is contingent on the owner thoughtfully asserting its rights in a mark.
And now, about you! What is it about wine law which makes your job interesting and then challenging?