TTB Approves San Luis Obispo Coast (SLO Coast) Viticultural Area

Last week was an exciting week for producers and consumers of California Central Coast wine. On Wednesday, March 9, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (the “TTB”) published a final rule establishing a new “San Luis Obispo Coast,” or “SLO Coast,” American Viticultural Area (“AVA”).

The SLO Coast AVA (identified in orange below) spans approximately 408,505 acres in San Luis Obispo County and is home to over 50 wineries and an estimated 78 commercial vineyards covering approximately 3,942 acres. It lies entirely within the multi-county Central Coast AVA and fully encompasses the established Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande Valley AVAs.

Map of “San Luis Obispo Coast” or “SLO Coast” AVA. Image: TTB.

Located along the westernmost portion of the Central Coast AVA, the SLO Coast AVA is a region of coastal terraces, foothills, and small valleys along the Pacific Coast. Its westward orientation provides more marine fog and cool marine air compared to other regions of the Central Coast AVA, using the powerhouse of the Pacific Ocean to moderate temperatures and foster optimal vineyard conditions for growing early-to-mid-season grape varietals such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Aaron Wines in Paso Robles, CA falls within the boundaries of the new SLO Coast AVA and has planted 90% of its 4,000 planted acres within 6 miles of the Pacific Ocean. Winemaker Aaron Jackson is thrilled by the important addition of the SLO Coast AVA to the “few truly coastal AVAs” in the state of California. Brian Talley of Talley Vineyards in Arroyo Grande, CA shares Mr. Jackson’s sentiments, adding that the approval of the SLO Coast AVA will “drive awareness of the coastal part of San Luis Obispo County as a world class winegrowing region.”

The establishment of the SLO Coast AVA formally recognizes the unique topography, climate, and soils of the area and offers winemakers more diversity and flexibility in marketing their wines to consumers.

Effective April 9, 2022, vintners will be able to label bottles with “San Luis Obispo Coast,” “SLO Coast,” and “Central Coast” as appellations of origin if at least 85% of the wine is derived from grapes grown within the boundaries of the SLO Coast AVA and the wine otherwise meets the statutory requirements of 27 CFR 4.25(e)(3). Vintners producing wine from grapes grown in the Edna Valley or Arroyo Grande Valley AVAs can also continue to label bottles with “Edna Valley” or “Arroyo Grande Valley” as appellations of origin for their wines.

Dickenson, Peatman & Fogarty has represented a number of AVA petitioners before the TTB, including the SLO Coast petitioners. For more information on AVA petitions and labeling compliance, please contact Carol Kingery Ritter or John Trinidad.

TTB Proposes New Oregon AVA, Cites Wine Blogs as Support

Winegrowers vying to become the 18th American Viticultural Area in Oregon have reached an important milestone. On February 26, 2014, a new notice of proposed rulemaking was published in the Federal Register, soliciting comments regarding the proposed “The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater” AVA. The comment period is open until April 28, 2014, and comments can be submitted online.

New OR AVA Map


The proposed 4.9 square mile AVA is located just south of the Oregon/Washington border, in the southern part of the Walla Walla AVA, which in turn is nested in the Columbia Valley AVA. If TTB approves the new AVA, Washington wineries sourcing grapes from there will have to have their wines “finished” in Oregon in order to use the AVA name on their label pursuant to 27 CFR 4.25(e).

Wine blogs may end up playing a role in petitioner’s efforts to secure an AVA. Petitioners must submit evidence that the proposed AVA name is “currently and directly associated with an area in which viticulture exists.” The notice of proposed rulemaking cited two wine blogs (Washington Wine Report and Wine Peeps) that have referred to the area as “the rocks” in the section discussing “Name Evidence.” The petition submitted in support of the new AVA can be found through this link.

Dickenson, Peatman & Fogarty has represented a number of AVA petitioners before the TTB. For more information on AVA petitions, please contact Carol Kingery Ritter at [email protected] or John Trinidad at [email protected].

USPTO Finds Trademark CHAMPARTY Not Confusingly Similar to CHAMPAGNE Appellation

Comite Interprofessionel du Vin de Chamagne (CIVC) and Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualite (INAO) who under French law are charged with controlling, promoting and protecting the common law certification mark CHAMPAGNE, opposed the registration of the mark CHAMPARTY for “alcoholic beverages except beers.”  CIVC/INAO argued that the marks CHAMPAGNE and CHAMPARTY are confusingly similar.
The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (Board) found the parties goods to be identical.  While normally this factor alone would weigh heavily in favor of finding a likelihood of confusion, the Board found the marks CHAMPARTY and CHAMPAGNE dissimilar.  The Board stated that “customers of average perceptual abilities would not mistake one mark for the other or find the marks to be significantly similar” even if used on identical goods. CIVC/INAO argued that CHAMPAGNE is often associated with celebrations and thus PARTY might suggest a connection with CHAMPAGNE especially given that the initial letters are identical in both marks.  The Board was not persuaded as CHAMPAGNE is a term well known as a type of sparking wine, but CHAMPARTY has no literal meaning.  In fact, the Board noted that the English word “party” is a prominent feature of the CHAMPARTY mark and that the PARTY portion of the mark is “likely to counteract the visual similarities between the two marks in the perception of the consumers.”  Unfortunately for CIVC/INAO, there was no evidence of record that CHAMPAGNE is more closely connected with celebrations than that of any other alcoholic beverage.  Similarly, the Board saw no support for the argument that consumers would view CHAMPARTY as a kind of “brand extension” of the CHAMPAGNE mark nor did not discern any other rationale why consumers might perceive a relationship or connection between the marks.

The Board concluded that the mark CHAMPARTY differs substantially from the mark CHAMPAGNE, “so as not to be likely to cause confusion, mistake or deception as to the source of applicant’s goods.”  Alas, CIVC/INAO has the CHAMPAGNE, but nothing to celebrate.

Link to:

For any questions or assistance on trademark matters contact Katja Loeffelholz at [email protected].

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Chateauneuf-du-Pape Syndicat Denied by USPTO in Attempt to Protect Appellation

Like a bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape
I’m fine like wine when I start to rap
We need body rockin’, not perfection
Let me get some action from the back section
~ “Body Movin'” by The Beastie Boys
The Beastie Boys cannot be pleased and there undoubtedly will be no body rockin’ at the Syndicat Des Proprietaires Viticulteurs De Chateauneuf-Du-Pape.  
On June 14, 2013, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”) issued a decision denying an opposition brought by the Syndicat Des Proprietaires Viticulteurs De Chateauneuf-Du-Pape against negociant Pasquier DesVignes which applied to register the trademark CHEMIN DES PAPES for wine.  The Syndicat asserted a claim of confusing similarity based on a registered trademark for CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE CONTROLE and Design for wine in class 33 (see below) and based on an alleged common law certification mark for CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE for wine.  
A link to the decision may be found here:
While not krush groovin’, the case is quite interesting (to trademark lawyers and appellation geeks) on many levels.  One of the more interesting issues (although not electro-shocking) is the strategy employed by the Syndicat in protecting the geographical indication “Chateuneuf-du-Pape” and how this played out in the opposition refusal.  
The Syndicat claimed that it owned a common law geographical certification mark for CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE under U.S. law as a result of the control it asserted over the appellation “Chateuneuf-du-Pape.” However, the TTAB found that the Syndicat could not claim ownership of a common law geographical certification mark in CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE because there was evidence that other entities also controlled the use of the appellation, most notably L’institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité (“INAO”), the French governmental agency in charge of appellation standards throughout France.  The TTAB also noted that there was no evidence that there were any agreements between the Syndicat and these other parties as to control of the appellation (this is in contrast to other cases where the  Bureau National Interprofessionel du Cognac successfully proved a common law geographical certification mark in COGNAC by demonstrating its relationship with INAO).  As a result, the TTAB found that the Syndicat could not claim common law rights in CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE as a geographical certification mark as it did not appear to have exclusive control over the term.  Thus, the common law certification mark claim was not to be the Syndicat’s hyperspace in this game of Defender.
As a side note, during its analysis the TTAB did acknowledge that CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE is a geographical indication, which we believe is the first time that the USPTO, or any other US governmental body, has acknowledged a term as a “geographical indication” thereby recognizing the legal significance of geographical indications in the U.S. This is of some consolation to some proponents of geographical indications, but not the robotic-satisfaction for which others may have hoped.
Having found that the Syndicat could not assert rights in a common law certification mark in CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE, the TTAB turned to the claim of likelihood of confusion based on the registered trademark for CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE CONTROLE and Design in class 33 for wine. The TTAB analysis of the fame of the CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE CONTROLE and Design trademark turned back again to the issue of who actually controlled the appellation. The TTAB repeatedly questioned evidence of fame of the mark based on sales and advertising of wine identified as CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE noting that the Syndicat did not own or exclusively control the appellation, but rather the mark CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE CONTROLE and Design.  Thus, evidence of sales and marketing for all CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE wine could not support a claim that the Syndicat’s mark CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE CONTROLE and Design was famous.  So perhaps some body rockin’, but not perfection.
At the end of the day, whether or not the Syndicat was able to demonstrate that it owned common law rights in CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE as a geographical certification mark was probably a moot point given the fact that the TTAB ultimately determined that CHEMIN DES PAPES and CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPES and Design were simply not similar given the differences between the marks and the fact that there were numerous other third party “PAPES” marks for wine in the marketplace such as L’ESPRIT DE PAPE, CAVES DES PAPES and VIEUX PAPES.This case is a good read for anyone interested in the intersection of geographical indications and trademarks and highlights the difficulty of trying to protect geographical indications as certification marks under U.S. law.  Tell me party people, is that so wrong?

For questions or assistance on trademarks and geographical indications contact Scott Gerien at [email protected].

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WIPO Symposium on Geographical Indications Wraps Up in Bangkok

The biennial World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Worldwide Symposium on Geographical Indications wrapped up today in Bangkok, Thailand. The 2013 Symposium was hosted by the Thailand Department of Intellectual Property.

The two-day Symposium featured eight educational sessions with over thirty speakers from across the world discussing issues related to the protection and enforcement of geographical indications, including appellations of origin for wine, and the mechanisms and procedures for such protection and enforcement in numerous countries. Presentations included the experiences of various regions known for the production of different goods including Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese from Italy, Scotch Whisky from Scotland, Malaysian pepper, and Napa Valley wine from the U.S.

The Symposium also featured an exhibition of GI products from Thailand and other countries which featured various fruits, coffee, cheese, wine and handicrafts, including a live demonstration of the historic method of production of the silk threads used to make Thai silk.

The Symposium was attended by over 400 participants and was opened by Her Royal Highness Princess Sirindhorn of Thailand. The Symposium serves as an invaluable forum for the exchange of information and ideas related to the protection of appellations worldwide and the promotion of agricultural products, such as wine.

Scott Gerien of Dickenson, Peatman & Fogarty was an invited speaker and presented on the issue of use of geographical indications alongside trademarks and the Napa Valley story in developing a recognized brand in an appellation of origin.

More information on the Symposium can be found at the WIPO web site:

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Insight into TTB’s Approach to AVAs: The Inwood Valley AVA

Since the establishment of the Augusta AVA in 1980, ATF, and now TTB, has varied its approach to executing its legislatively delegated task of establishing American Viticultural Areas (AVAs).  In early 2011, TTB amended the AVA rules entirely.  With the recognition of the Inwood Valley AVA, effective as of October 15, 2012, we gain insight into TTB’s process and priorities when reviewing petitions to form new AVAs.
As originally conceived and petitioned to TTB, the Inwood Valley AVA was to be a 32,647 acre viticultural area with 60 acres of vines planted in 4 vineyards.  TTB pushed an amendment prior to publishing the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), which reduced the acreage to 28,298 acres and used distinctive soil types to reform the boundaries.  TTB sought to remove areas not containing viticultural activities from the AVA.  TTB received four comments to the NPRM- 3 supported the formation of the new AVA and 1 opposed the name “Inwood Valley” on the ground that labels with the “Inwood” name would be unable to add the word “Valley” to a future label without satisfying the 85% grape source requirement.  Because no existing labels would be impacted by forming the AVA, TTB dismissed the objection. 
After the comment period closed, TTB received a comment from a vineyard owner just outside the proposed AVA boundary who wanted to be included.  TTB found that a “slight modification to the boundary to include the vineyard at issue is consistent with the distinguishing features evidence submitted….” As a result, Inwood Valley AVA, as established, is a 28,441 acre viticultural area with 62.5 acres planted to wine grape vines or 0.2% of the AVA planted for viticulture.  Although in response to a supportive comment to the NPRM, TTB noted that “Whether or not, and to what extent, there is any economic benefit from the approval of a viticultural area is not a factor that TTB considers in determining whether or not to approve a petition for a viticultural area,” it seems clear that TTB does consider whether the formation of an AVA will disenfranchise wine industry participants.  The Federal Register excerpt for the establishment of the Inwood Valley AVA may be found at the following link:
For more information or assistance on petitions for establishment of AVAs contact Carol Kingery Ritter at [email protected]
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Proposed Naches Heights AVA an Exception to Recent TTB Stated AVA Policy

On May 24, 2011, TTB published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposing to establish the Naches Heights American Viticultural Area (AVA) in Yakima County, Washington.  The Naches Heights AVA would be located within the Columbia Valley AVA.  TTB is asking for comments on the NPRM on or before July 25, 2011.  The proposed AVA is notable for its relatively limited viticultural production within the proposed area.  Recently, TTB has taken the position that the ratio of planted and planned vineyard acreage to the total acreage of the viticultural area is an important factor in TTB’s evaluation of an AVA petition.  The higher the ratio, the greater the chance of success of the petition through TTB’s vetting process.  The proposed Naches Heights viticultural area has 105 acres of commercial vineyards producing or expected to be in production soon.  The entire area encompasses 13,254 acres.  With only 0.79% of the total proposed area committed to viticulture, Naches Heights stands out as an exception to TTB’s recently stated policies.

For more information or assistance on AVA formation, contact Carol Kingrey Ritter at [email protected]

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TTB Proposed Rulemaking Published for Coombsville AVA in Napa Valley

On May 24, 2011, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) published the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposing to establish the Coombsville viticultural area within Napa County and the North Coast and Napa Valley AVAs.  TTB is accepting comments on the NPRM until July 25, 2011.  Comments may be submitted online, by mail or in person as specifically provided in the NPRM. 
The proposed Coombsville AVA very closely resembles the previously proposed, and ultimately rejected, Tulocay AVA.  The proposed Coombsville AVA is 11,075 acres as opposed to the previously proposed Tulocay AVA with 11,200 acres.  The reduced size keeps the proposed Coombsville viticultural area within Napa County and the Napa Valley AVA.  After receiving and reviewing public comment on the NPRM proposing to establish the Tulocay AVA, TTB found that “Tulocay” was not the correct geographic name for the viticultural area.  TTB went on to suggest that “Coombsville” or “Coombsville District” might be appropriate names for the area.  As a result, Thomas Farella of Farella-Park Vineyards submitted the Coombsville petition to TTB that is the subject of the current NPRM. 
In addition to seeking general comments in response to the proposal to establish the Coombsville viticultural area, TTB is seeking comments on specific issues raised in the petition and the NPRM, including the sufficiency and accuracy of the name, boundary, climate and soils evidence and, given the proposed Coombsville viticultural area’s location within the existing Napa Valley and North Coast viticultural areas, TTB is seeking comments on whether the evidence submitted in the petition regarding the distinguishing features of the proposed viticultural area sufficiently differentiates the proposed viticultural area from those existing viticultural areas.  To this end, TTB is also interested in comments regarding whether the geographic features of the proposed viticultural area are so distinguishable from the surrounding Napa Valley and North Coast viticultural areas that the proposed Coombsville viticultural area should no longer be part of those viticultural areas.  To review the NPRM go to the following link:
For additional information or assistance on AVA matters contact Carol Kingrey Ritter at [email protected]
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West Sonoma Coast: Investing in Marketing over AVA Recognition

Vintners and growers from the far western coastal areas of the Sonoma Coast AVA have recently launched a marketing program to promote the “WestSonomaCoast” area.  The group has determined, at least for now, that the politics and bureaucracy surrounding the AVA formation process do not best serve the group’s goal of distinguishing the far west coastal properties and wines from the larger and Sonoma Coast AVA.  Although these marketing efforts may, in the future, strengthen the name, boundary and scientific evidence will be needed to support a new AVA petition.  Thus, this group appears to be testing the theory that a geographically oriented marketing program can build brand equity to an equal or greater degree than forming a new AVA and using that AVA name on the label of each qualifying bottle of wine.  Of course without any legal recognition of an AVA or a certification mark, one wonders how the group will be able to claim control of the West Sonoma Coast name.
For more information or assistance on the filing of applications for recognition of AVAs contact Carol Kingery Ritter at [email protected].
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WTO Reports Continued Progress on Multilateral Register for Geographical Indications for Wines and Spirits

In the WTO’s continuing efforts to move forward the 13-year old agenda on a multilateral register for geographical indications for wines and spirits, the WTO reported last week that a small working group representing the divergent positions of the various member countries had completed two additional sections of “emerging text” for the register proposal.  “Emerging text” represents a single document which has the elements of each of the various WTO member positions reflected in bracketed text to reflect the differences between the positions, and unbracketed text to reflect the areas of agreement.  While the development of the emerging text is a positive step forward, the majority of such text still remains bracketed, indicating that any agreement on a format for a multilateral register for geographical indications for wines and spirits still remains fairly elusive.

To read the WTO press release on the negotiations click on the following link:

For information or assistance on geographical indication issues contact Scott Gerien at [email protected].
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Some Movement at WTO on Multilateral Register for Geographical Indications for Wines & Spirits

In what is being touted by the World Trade Organization (WTO) as the first attempt to produce a single draft text for a Multilateral Register for Geographical Indications for Wines and Spirits pursuant to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), representatives from WTO member countries met this month and put together a written draft of their conflicting positions on how one would notify a geographical indication for wines or spirits for registration on a multilateral register.

As some background, WTO members agreed during the Doha Development Round of WTO trade negotiations in 2001 to develop a multilateral register for geographical indications for wines and spirits so that terms such as Cognac, Napa Valley and Barolo could receive recognition or protection as place names at the international level.

However, exactly what such protection would be and how it would be accomplished was not set forth in any manner at the Doha Rounds and the negotiations that followed demonstrated that there were vast differences between WTO members as to what these should be.  On the one side was the “new world” led by the U.S., Australia, Canada and others which believed that the multilateral register should be nothing more than a list of wine and spirit geographical indications that would simply serve as a reference for WTO members with no legal effect.  On the other side was the “old world” led by the European Union, Switzerland, and later a network of developing countries seeking to tie their own IP interests to the geographical indication issue, which wanted mandatory protection of wine and spirit geographical indications in all WTO countries once placed on the multilateral register.

Between these two groups was Hong Kong, which set forth a “middle ground” proposal which attempted to address concerns raised by both sides: on the one side, the new world countries were concerned with conflicts of geographical indications with trademarks and terms which were generic in some countries, such as Champagne; on the other side, the old world countries sought to have some type of legal effect for the registration system so that geographical indications would have protection on par with other types of intellectual property.  Along with Hong Kong, a middle ground position has also been proposed by the International Trademark Association.  Both of these proposals have provisions for the protection of trademarks with prior rights and recognition of generic terms, while also allowing geographical indications with no conflicting issues to be recognized and protected with legal effect.

Since Doha, the process has been characterized by gridlock with very little movement on the principal issue of the multilateral register for wines and spirits, and expansion of the gridlock by adding other controversial topics to the discussion, such as expansion of such a register to goods other than wines and spirits.

The WTO has set a deadline of the end of the first quarter of 2011 for a draft written text covering six different points related to the Multilateral Register.  This development this month is movement on the first point.  It is an ambitious plan, but given the lack of movement over the past 10 years, certainly something to be optimistic about.

For more information on the current negotiations on the Multilateral Register for Geographical Indications for Wines and Spirits, follow the below link to the WTO web site:

For more information on assistance with protecting geographical indications in the U.S. and abroad, contact Scott Gerien at [email protected]

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TTB Issues Final Rule on New Procedures for Recognizing AVAs

On January 20, 2011, TTB published the long awaited Final Rule on its controversial Notice No. 78, which proposed substantial changes to the AVA petitioning and formation process.  Notice No. 78 was published on November 20, 2007; the same day that the agency published Notice No. 77, proposing to establish the Calistoga AVA. 

Perhaps the two most controversial topics addressed in Notice No. 78 were proposed changes to the “grandfather” rules that address conflicts between brand names and AVA names and TTB’s stated concern over nested AVAs.  In the Final Rule, TTB backed off its proposal to create new “grandfather” rules stating that it was persuaded by opposing comments that stressed the potential for the proposed scheme to mislead consumers.  On the subject of nested AVAs, or AVAs within AVAs, TTB left the door open to the possibility that a petition to establish a new AVA entirely within or overlapping an existing AVA may result in the new AVA being excluded from the larger area.

Procedurally, the Final Rule greatly expands the petition evidence requirements and procedures for submitting and processing AVA petitions.  TTB emphasized that its new procedural rules do not impose new standards but “represent a codification of longstanding administrative authority and practice and address a need for greater transparency.” 

For information on DP&F’s services related to AVA formation and expansion contact Richard Mendelson at [email protected]
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Changes to Boundary of Santa Maria Valley AVA Effective on January 28, 2011

On December 29, 2010, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) approved the expansion of the Santa Maria Valley AVA in California’s San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties by approximately 19,000 acres.  The expansion comes along the AVA’s current Southern border in Santa Barbara County.  Proponents of the AVA indicated that the expansion was necessary to include vineyards near the Southwest portion of the AVA that were not contemplated when the AVA was first recognized in 1981.  The effective date of the new boundary is January 28, 2011.

To see the new boundaries of the Santa Maria Valley AVA, follow the below link to the Federal Register announcing TTB’s recognition of the expansion:

For information on DP&F’s services related to AVA formation and expansion contact Richard Mendelson at [email protected]

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