Cultural icon and Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Prince taught us what it sounds like when doves cry, but why do doves cry? Legal problems, possibly, and the makers of Ohio's Purple Rain wines might just have one: Earlier this month, representatives of the late Prince's estate filed a petition with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to revoke the winery's trademark for “Purple Rain” wine.
The wine brand in question, M&M Wine Cellar, maker of L’uva Bella wines, has been using the name Purple Rain since 2015, for a red made from Concord grapes, a white made from Niagara grapes and a rosé (Concord, Niagara and Catawba blend). “M&M Wine Cellar has had a validly registered trademark for Purple Rain with respect to our Concord wine for years,” an M&M Wine Cellar representative told Wine Spectator via email. Per the records of the USPTO, M&M Wine Cellar received its registered Purple Rain trademark for grape wine in December 2019.
Of course, “Purple Rain” is also the name of Prince’s 1984 Oscar-winning rock musical film and the accompanying Grammy-winning soundtrack and Billboard No. 1 single.
It should come as no surprise that Prince’s estate already claims Purple Rain trademarks for audio recordings, apparel, Broadway performances and much more. And it’s equally unsurprising that on Aug. 3, reps for Prince’s estate and record label NPG Records filed a petition with the USPTO to cancel M&M Wine Cellar’s trademark on the grounds of “priority and likelihood of confusion, dilution by blurring” and “false suggestion of a connection” under the Trademark Act. Their argument: “Purple Rain was not in the U.S. lexicon until it was used by the late Prince Rogers Nelson for his song and movie.” The petition also contends that M&M Wine Cellar specifically adopted the name Purple Rain to create an association with the rock legend.
The M&M Wine Cellar team is still evaluating its legal options, but for now they don’t appear to be backing down. “We intend to vigorously defend our brand,” said M&M Wine Cellar’s representative. On the off chance that they don’t prevail, we think Dove’s Tears would be an appropriate follow-up cuvée (presuming it wouldn’t encroach on the trademarks of Dove Tears beer from Florida, Angels Tears wine from South Africa or Pheasant’s Tears winery and restaurant in the Republic of Georgia …)
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