In Barefoot Trademark Battle, it’s Wine vs. Kombucha

IMG_4271-1A Virginia husband-and-wife kombucha operation is defending its name in trademark court against the world’s largest winery. Ethan and Kate Zuckerman, the couple behind Barefoot Bucha, are currently involved in trademark litigation with E. & J. Gallo, the parent company of Barefoot Wine, which opposed the craft kombucha brand’s trademark application earlier this year, claiming the brand is “confusingly similar in appearance, sound and meaning to the Barefoot Marks.”

The Zuckermans addressed the ongoing litigation in a press release disseminated this week, expressing their frustration in the Trademark Trial and Appeals Board (TTAB) process.

“As a small business we don’t stand a chance of winning within the current system,” wrote Ethan Zuckerman, who pointed to E. & J. Gallo’s “deep pockets” and track record in other David vs. Goliath-esque trademark disputes. “It’s very frustrating and it doesn’t feel like justice is being served.”

Kate Zuckerman echoed a similar sentiment in a call with BevNET Wednesday, saying “Trademark law was written to protect consumers but in practice a larger company can challenge a smaller business in court and it’s a lengthy, time-consuming, expensive, stressful process.”

Zuckerman also argued against the wine corporation’s aforementioned “confusingly similar” claim that consumers would mistake the products for one another in stores.

“Kombucha is a totally different product from wine,” Zuckerman added. “We’re carried in different retailers, we’re in different bottles We just don’t believe it’s likely consumers drinking kombucha are going to mistake our product for their product.”

Still, Zuckerman said she remains hopeful the two parties will be able to find some common ground by way of a coexistence agreement, which would allow her brand to continue operating under its Barefoot Bucha identity,

Via e-mail, a spokesperson from E. & J. Gallo provided BevNET with the following statement:

“We are currently in discussions with Barefoot Bucha and are hoping to find a resolution that will satisfy both parties. We cannot comment further at this time.”