Conscious Cultures, the maker of Barefoot Bucha, a Virginia-based kombucha brand, has agreed to settle a trademark infringement lawsuit filed against the company by Barefoot Wine owner E. & J. Gallo. Conscious Cultures issued a press release on Tuesday which stated that founders Ethan and Kate Zuckerman have not admitting to any wrongdoing, but agreed to change the name of Barefoot Bucha.
In July, 2015 Gallo filed a notice of opposition with the Trademark Trial and Appeals Board (TTAB) seeking to block Conscious Cultures’ trademark application for Barefoot Bucha. Gallo described the kombucha brand’s name and logo as “confusingly similar in appearance, sound and meaning” to those of Barefoot Wine. In the following months, the two sides engaged in litigation and sought a resolution determined by the TTAB. However, things changed in April when Gallo decided to sue Conscious Cultures in federal court.
“The lawsuit… alleging trademark infringement asking for monetary damages, that’s a very, very different kind of scenario you’re looking at as a small business,” Kate Zuckerman told BevNET. “Looking at it as small business owners, the time and energy expenditure, not to mention financial, we realized we were out of our league going through a federal trademark trial process which is very different from that from the TTAB.”
In an emailed statement to BevNET, a Gallo spokesperson said that the company is “pleased that Conscious Cultures and E. & J. Gallo Winery have reached a mutually agreeable resolution.”
Complete details of the settlement were not disclosed by either company, however, Zuckerman said that Conscious Cultures has a goal of completing the rebrand by the beginning of next year.
Although she said that “it’s hard to let go” of the Barefoot Bucha name, Zuckerman is excited about plans to crowdsource a new name, logo art and tagline for the brand. The company launched a contest to rename Barefoot Bucha and is asking applicants to submit ideas by Sept. 12. The winner will receive a year’s worth of kombucha, supplied by Conscious Cultures in a partnership with Whole Foods Market.
“We’re looking forward to crowdsourcing the new name and getting the community involved in creating the identity of new brand and we’re excited about the possibilities that that holds for us,” Zuckerman said. “We’re just choosing to look at [the settlement] as a positive situation.”
Here is Conscious Cultures’s complete press release regarding the settlement:
Local kombucha company announces settlement with Gallo Wines, Launches unique contest to crowdsource their new name
Conscious Cultures, LLC, owner of Barefoot Bucha kombucha tea, and E. & J. Gallo Winery, owner of the BAREFOOT wine brand, are pleased to announce that they have reached a settlement in a trademark infringement lawsuit. Gallo filed the federal suit in April 2016 due to concerns that consumers were confused by the similarity of the two names. Under the settlement, Conscious Cultures’ owners Ethan and Kate Zuckerman, while not admitting any wrongdoing, have agreed to change the name of their kombucha tea brand.
Says Kate, “We have amicably settled our differences out of court. We are relived to put this behind us so that we can continue to focus on bringing kombucha drinkers in our area a delicious and healthful beverage using a low waste model.”
The company is now looking towards the future by launching an innovative contest to crowdsource its new name. “During the events of the past year, it has been amazing to feel the outpouring of support from our community,” says co-owner Ethan Zuckerman. “As a small local business, our customers are our greatest asset. We would like to honor that by actively involving them in this crucial moment for the company. We are excited to open this up to our community and trust that a great new identity will emerge. We will all be able to look back and say that we did this together.”
The winner will receive a year’s worth of kombucha, courtesy of Barefoot Bucha and the winner’s local Whole Foods Market. Says Kate, “Whole Foods customers have embraced the sustainable values of our refillable bottle model and have been an integral part of our company’s growth over the past five years. We’ve also created successful collaboration brews with several of the stores, so partnering for the renaming contest was another great way for our companies to work together.” If the contest winner does not live near a Whole Foods Market in Virginia or Washington, D.C., or Maryland, an alternate prize will be offered.
Barefoot Bucha is encouraging contest applicants to enter any of the following elements: a name, logo art, and/or tagline. Contest entries can be submitted online at: www.barefootbucha.com/namethatbucha. Full contest details are available on the website. The deadline for submissions is Monday, September 12th.
Barefoot Bucha is a family-owned small business that is known for its innovative, sustainable method of getting its product to the market. The company has set up various fountains in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., where customers can get fresh, Certified Organic kombucha on draft. Customers buy a bottle, which they then own, and can refill as many times as they want. Since 2010, Barefoot Bucha drinkers have saved over 400,000 bottles through the company’s refillable bottle model.
# # #
At the core of everything Barefoot Bucha does is our company’s philosophy: big flavor, small footprint. Our flavors are carefully crafted with ingredients that appeal to a wide palate, making Barefoot Bucha a drinkable and healthful beverage. Our footprint is minimized by a commitment to regional distribution and by offering our delicious kombucha in refillable bottles.
Barefoot Bucha believes in good health, sustainable business practices, and our ability to positively impact the world through the choices we make every day. We hope you’ll appreciate our efforts to bring you the best-tasting and most earth-friendly kombucha around.