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Jewelry V. Wine: Cartier Sues Carter Cellars

Executives at the international jeweler believe the Napa winery's label looks too familiar

James Laube
Posted: May 1, 2014

In what looks like a case of Goliath vs. David, Cartier the jeweler thinks that Carter the wine brand's label is too familiar-looking and is suing the Napa vintner to change its look. The famous jeweler and watchmaker, based in Switzerland, filed suit in U.S. District Court in California in October 2013, in effect asking vintner Mark Carter, owner of Carter Cellars, to change his label. Cartier believes the Carter trademark looks too much like Cartier’s and wants Carter Cellars to change its trademark font and color scheme.

Vintner Carter, who founded Carter Cellars in 1998 and is also the owner of a Wine Spectator Grand Award–winning restaurant, Restaurant 301 in Eureka, also known as the Carter House, says he has no intention of changing anything. He maintains the two logos don’t look the same and appear on products that appeal to different audiences. His winery makes about 1,500 cases of Napa Valley Cabernet, Merlot and blends.

Carter said Cartier first brought up the label issue in 2004, and then dropped the matter until about a year ago, when a new team of lawyers for the jeweler asked him to change the label. Carter is being defended by his insurance company, California Insurance Group.

Cartier's attorneys did not respond to requests for comment. Their complaint, filed this past October, claims the Carter name on the wine labels is too similar to Cartier in script style and color. "Defendants use of their confusingly similar Carter script mark is likely to confuse consumers into mistakenly believing that defendants' wine products are made, provided, authorized, endorsed or sponsored by Cartier." The jeweler has not asked for specific monetary damages, but asked the court to award it "such damages it has sustained or will sustain" due to trademark infringement and unfair competition.

The two sides have been in court in recent weeks, and have sought mediation, but are now in what Carter called a “cooling off” period before resuming or dropping the legal action. A hearing is scheduled for May 7.

Carter isn’t the only Carter in the wine business. Carter Vineyard is located in Oregon, Carter Estate Winery is located in Southern California, while Jack Carter & the Armory is located in Gibsonville, Va. All the Carters have agreed they are entitled to use their names, according to Mark Carter. While Cartier is best known for its watches and jewelry, it does produce a Cuvée Cartier Champagne to pour at events and in stores.

Courtesy of Carter Cellars

Carter Cellars has used a red script on its labels for more than a decade.

Global jewelry and watchmaker Cartier feels the script and red are too similar to its logo.

Peter Morrell
New York, NY, USA —  May 1, 2014 4:06pm ET
Over forty years ago, as a retail wine merchant, Morrell & Company, I thought I was smart when I offered Cartier French Champagne (I think imported then by Monsieur Henri Wines) to Cartier Jewelers in New York. Rather than show any appreciation, they threatened me with a law suit! Apparently , nothing has changed there.
Peter Hickner
Seattle —  May 2, 2014 1:10pm ET
The fonts are obviously different. Does Cartier think we are all idiots? They are not going to make any friends behaving this way.
Greg Dunbar
Seattle, WA —  May 5, 2014 6:23pm ET
A team of hotshot lawyers is just trying to make a name for themselves. The two fonts aren't the same, the names are different, and there's no confusing wine with jewelry. I only wish I could sit on that jury. I'd penguin slap Cartier all the way back to France.
Brad Paulsen
Saratoga, CA —  May 11, 2014 5:59am ET
I was so confused by the label that I tried to buy some jewelry with my last wine order! Lame. Cartier is being a bully. They are the only ones confused. If anything the Carter label is similar to Schrader and they seem to all get along.

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