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Lawsuit brought against Treasury Wine Estates over Stag's Leap similarities

Published:  02 September, 2016

Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) has been accused trading off the success of an iconic Napa Valley wine brand.

Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) has been accused trading off the success of an iconic Napa Valley wine brand.

Last week, Stag's Leap Wine Cellars and parent company Ste. Michelle Wine Estates officially brought legal action against the global wine company.

They allege that the marketing and branding for TWE's recent launch, The Stag, which is made from Australian vines in Vitoria, has been intentionally designed to confuse consumers into thinking that it is linked with the Stags Leap Wine made in the Napa Valley.

In its deposition to the court, Stag's Leap Wine Cellars said The Stag's label design and logo were intended to "mislead and confuse consumers".

It said: "The defendants aim to dupe wine consumers into associating their new 'The Stag' wine product with the world-renowned, luxury Cabernet Sauvignon wines from the prestigious Stags Leap District and Napa Valley appellations. 'The Stag' misleadingly co-opts the very heart of the Stags Leap name, its winemaker, and imagery. It even shamelessly adopts the apocryphal legend of the area in an obvious attempt to create an impression in the minds of consumers that they share a common source."

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars are suing TWE for false designation of origin, unfair competition, false advertising, and dilution under US law.

TWE have denied the accusations, arguing that the stag logo is in reference to the animal's link with St Huberts - one of the first wineries established in Victoria.

The global company also has a winery in the Stag's Leap sub-appellation, as referenced in the following statement: "We have taken care to adhere to all legal requirements in relation to the appellation and geographical indicators of the wine. We are fully complying with State and Federal laws in relation to the development, marketing and sale of this brand in the US. We wish to maintain a collaborative relationship with neighbouring wineries including Stag's Leap as we have had for many years."

The Napa Valley sub region of Stag's Leap gained notoriety back in 1976 during what was to be become as the Judgment of Paris. when Stag's Leap's 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon bested France's finest Bordeaux at a blind tasting with industry experts.