Update: The Cristalino lawsuit

Cristalino lawsuit What do you call Cristalino, the Spanish sparkling wine, after a federal court judge says that you can’t call it Cristalino?

What happens if you run a picture of the old Cristalino bottle, like the one on the left, after a federal court judge says you shouldn’t?

Who would have thought that the Wine Curmudgeon needed an attorney to write about $10 wine? But that appears to be the case these days.

Regular visitors will remember that, last August, the company that owns Cristal (and which will never be mentioned on the blog) won a judgment in U.S. federal court in Minneapolis. Cristal’s owner said there was evidence that consumers could be confused between the two brands, even though Cristal sells for hundreds of dollars and Cristalino doesn’t, and they are rarely on sale in the same location. A federal court judge agreed, and ordered Cristalino to redesign and re-label its bottle, with a disclaimer that says Cristalino isn’t affiliated with Cristal or The Company That Will Not be Named.

Fast forward to last week, when I got a letter from Cristalino. It outlined the results of the lawsuit, and asked anyone writing about their wine to:

• Change all old references on their blogs and sites from Cristalino to the new name.

• Destroy any old bottle shots or labels that we might have.

• Replace any old bottle shots or labels with new bottle shots or labels.

You will have noticed that I did not list the new name. A friend of mine suggested that I start using the phrase, “Cristalino, a great little sparkling cava from Spain, not to be confused with Cristal, a vastly overpriced French Champagne.” Which has some merit.

I do know I’m not going to change any references or pictures on the blog. It irritates me no end that I’m being asked to waste my time so a company that sells over-priced wine can get richer. And I do have certain Constitutional rights when it comes to fair comment about news, based on several Supreme Court decisions, including New York Times v. Sullivan. But since it has been a few years since my media law class, I consulted an attorney.

It was actually two attorneys, who own perhaps my favorite wine shop in Dallas (though they asked not to be named, since this isn’t their area of practice — and they emphasized that they were not giving me legal advice). Their thoughts: That I was probably safe from retribution from either Cristalino or The Company That Will Not be Named. “However,” said one, “if you continue to just say ‘Cristalino’ and they decide to sue you for an injunction, you may well end up wishing you had complied with the attached letter. The odds of that happening? Pretty slim.”

In which case, I’ll have another blog post, no doubt asking for money for my legal defense fund.

4 thoughts on “Update: The Cristalino lawsuit

  • By One or both of the Anderson Boys! -

    I (we) better not be sued for malpractice!!!

  • By Robert Platt Bell -

    This lawsuit was the best piece of advertising for Juame Serra Cristalino, in my opinion. I saw it for sale at the wholesale club for $6.99 a bottle.
    I saw on the label the disclaimer “Not to be confused with Overpriced Pimp Juice which sells for $600 a bottle at the strip clubs” (it didn’t actually say that, I am translating here)and had to laugh, as I understood what was going on, from a Trademark perspective.
    The Pimp Juice people might have won their case in court, but Juame Serra has the last laugh with their oh-so-legal disclaimer.
    It was damn good, too. I went back and bought a case of it. I am going to Spain next year and touring their winery (they are a huge operation, apparently the Bronco Winery of Spain) if I can.
    And I likely wouldn’t have bought it if they had the old label on it.
    This lawsuit proved the old adage – there is no such thing as bad publicity.

  • By class action attorney -

    This is only slightly better than having to pay money every time the word “Kentucky” appears for commercial purposes. It’s not like people rose up with a class action against Cristalino.

  • By Jeff Siegel -

    Thanks for the comment, Al. Check out the blog next week, when I’ll have a post on what may turn out to be the next big trademark lawsuit.

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