Wine labels battle over Aussie icon

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 2nd March 2011

Casella Wines, producer of the country’s ‘most powerful’ wine brand, is suing a competitor for trademark infringement.

Casella is the owner of the Yellow Tail brand, which has been a remarkable success story over recent years. Since creation around the turn of the century, it has become Australia’s leading wine export and the most popular imported wine to the United States.

Despite its low price point it is now under attack from an array of competitors who are looking to take a slice of their market share by undercutting on price. It is how some are doing this that has riled Casella Wines, with the latest lawsuit the second in under two years they have filed in order to protect their brand.

Casella’s success has in part been blamed for a lack of traction of Australian wine in recent years within the US as scores of imitators have looked to mimic their successful strategy except at a cheaper price – giving Australian wine a somewhat cheap image, albeit offering good value for money.

Imitators going a step too far?

In 2009, Casella sued Bronco Wine Company for allegedly copying the design of their name on the label as well as similarity between the animals portrayed on the label. Bronco had launched a brand called [Down Under] and Casella said the use of brackets could confuse the customer given their brand is portrayed as [yellow tail] on labels. Casella said that the public may see Down Under as a cheaper version of Yellow Tail.

And now the maker of Yellow Tail is suing the producer of Little Roo for what they claim to be a kangaroo on Little Roo’s label that looks very similar to Yellow Tail’s wallaby*.

“It’s hard enough for consumers to make choices, let alone to be confused when they go into a store with a particular wine in mind,” John Casella, Managing Director of Casella Wines, said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Wine Group, which makes Little Roo, argues that their logo – while obviously sharing some broad similarities – was portraying a different concept to consumers with a joey poking out from the kangaroo’s pouch.

“We were looking for a way of communicating a strong sense of place,” David Kent, the Wine Group’s CEO told the WSJ. “There’s been an American fascination with the joey, the baby kangaroo…It’s a totally different concept.”

A number of Australian wine labels now carry an image of the kangaroo, or wallaby, but Casella claims that the Little Roo label is too close to their own thanks to ‘similar coulours and lettering’.

*The lawsuit was first filed in October but a resolution appears no closer than it did back then.

This article was provided by Australian Wine News.