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TWE says Stag's Leap lawsuit is attempt to "stifle lawful competition"

Published:  07 October, 2016

Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) has hit back at accusations that it is trading off the success of an iconic Napa Valley wine brand.

Back in August, Stag's Leap Wine Cellars (SLWC) and its parent company Ste. Michelle Wine Estates (SMWE) announced it was suing Australian wine company TWE for its use of the brand name The Stag in the US.

But TWE maintains that the imagery of the stag has been associated with the historic St Huberts winery in Victoria, Australia, since 1862, and moving the brand to America is simply part of global expansion - not an attempt to trade off the success of the Napa winery.

SLWC are suing TWE for false designation of origin, unfair competition, false advertising, and dilution under US law.

TWE has now filed counter legal documents, asking the courts to dismiss the entire complaint.

A spokesperson for the company said: "Our strategy is to build global brands across multiple markets and with wine sourced from multiple regions - this is no different.

"The Stag proposition for commercial use in the US has no connection to Stag's Leap Winery or the Stags Leap District - this was made very clear to SLWC and SMWE before they filed their complaint.

"After more than thirty years of co-existence and co-operation, TWE is disappointed in the actions taken by SLWC and SMWE. We believe SLWC and SMWE are not trying to protect the Stags Leap District, but instead are trying to use the legal system to stifle lawful competition."

The Californian Stag's Leap brand is most famous for producing a wine which beat one of France's finest Bordeaux in a blind taste test in 1976 known as the Judgment of Paris.

In its deposition to a US court, SLWC said TWE's The Stag label design and logo were intended to "mislead and confuse consumers".

TWE intends to launch a North Coast Cabernet under the St Huberts brand with a similar label design for sale in the US.

The global company also has a winery in the Stags Leap district which is sub-appellation of Napa.