When it comes to protecting your brand, the answer is a resounding YES! Alcoholic beverages are considered related to reduce likelihood of confusion among brands.
The Trademark Trial & Appeal Board (“TTAB”) recently ruled in In Re Maestro Tequilero, S.A. De C.V., 77904774, 2012 WL 6137587 [Trademark Tr & App Bd Nov. 29, 2012] that the mark ATELIER for Tequila is likely to cause confusion with ATELIER WINERY for none other than wine.
In considering whether a mark is likely to cause confusion the US Patent & Trademark Office looks to the relevant factors laid out in In re E. I. du Pont. In most cases, the key factors considered are the similarity of the marks and the similarities between the goods. Here, the TTAB found the marks to be similar in commercial impression based on their similarities in sight, sound and connotation.
As to the difference in the goods sold in connection with the marks in tequila vs wine, the board held that there is no per se rule that all alcoholic beverages are related, however, many courts and the TTAB have found that different types of alcoholic beverages are related goods for the purposes of a likelihood of confusion analysis under the Trademark Act. The TTAB in this case maintained that ruling and provided an analysis as to why tequila and wine are related for likelihood of confusion.
Previous cases have found: JOSE GASPAR GOLD for Tequila and GASPER’S ALE for beer and ale; CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS for beer and CRISTOBAL COLON for sweet wine; JAS. GORDON for Scotch whiskey and GORDON’S for distilled gin & vodka; BRADOR for malt liquor; COLAGNAC for cola liqueur likely to be confused with certification mark COGNAC for brandy); RED BULL for Scotch whiskey likely to be confused with TORO ROJO for rum; RED BULL for Tequila likely to be confused with RED BULL for malt liquor.
What does this mean to you, the producer? This means that in order attain the legal rights to your products name and/or logo you must officially trademark it before your competitor, in spite of the fact that you make one spirit and he another. That is, you must consider your potential competitors when starting a new line or product as well as continually monitoring the market for new competitors in order to maintain your strong mark.