If you've worked hard to develop a brand for your business, then you know how important it is to protect your intellectual property. Brands are established to signify specific services, products and ideas, and if someone infringes on your intellectual property rights and creates confusion among consumers, then the consequences could be quite serious.
On the flip side, when you're planning to establish a brand, you need to conduct the proper research to ensure that you don't end up infringing on someone else's trademark or servicemark. Using language or a logo that is similar to another company's may not be intentional, but mistaken infringement can still result in litigation and a forced brand change.
Consider these issues with regard to a recent legal dispute between California wine company Cheers Wine & Spirits and Agave Loco, maker of RumChata.
In addition to RumChata, Agave Loco has filed trademark applications for a number of alcoholic beverages with the suffix "-Chata" in the name. The company claims that Cheers Wine & Spirits began infringing on the "-Chata" trademarks when it started marketing a wine called Lemonchatta.
Cheers Wine & Spirits is accused of creating confusion among or intentionally deceiving customers by using the "-chatta" suffix. Agave has asked for an injunction against Cheers' use of "-Chata" or "-chatta." Agave is also seeking any proceeds from the sale of Cheers' "-chatta" products, as well as have the existing "-chatta" products destroyed.
To avoid a similar dispute, work with an intellectual property lawyer to research and establish your brand. In the event that a dispute does arise, an attorney can help you resolve the matter.