Wines and bicycles come together in the courts

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 Bicycles and wines don't often figure together in the news, but it happened twice recently.

The first story involves Red Bicyclette pinot noir wine sold by E&J Gallo.

The label features an evocative watercolor of a man riding his bicycle home from the boulangerie with baguettes sticking out of the front basket.

I wrote about this a few years ago as Gallo wanting to break into the French import wine market. The suits at Gallo spent a lot of time and money coming up with a friendly image of French wine they could sell to Americans.

That bicycle image probably sold a lot of pinot noir wine, except for one fact, a lot of it wasn't pinot noir.

The Washington Post tells us that the French courts have convicted 12 persons in the Languedoc region of Southern France for selling the less expensive varieties of merlot and syrah to Gallo, but telling them it was the higher priced pinot noir. The deception occurred between 2006 and 2008.

Wine columnist Dave McIntyre says this puts the Modesto, California-based winery in a pickle:

“For Gallo, this obviously is a public relations nightmare. Either the company was duped, and its winemakers couldn't tell the difference between pinot noir and merlot, or the company knew what it was buying and knowingly sold mislabeled wine in the U.S. market. It's a lose-lose situation for the largest U.S. wine company.”

Trek vs. Trek

Another losing situation faces Trek Bicycle, which sued a small California winery for trademark infringement because it adopted the name Trek Winery.

A U.S. District Court judge ruled against Trek Bicycle, which filed the lawsuit in its home state of Wisconsin. The judge ruled that the winery doesn't do enough business in Trek's home state of Wisconsin to warrant trademark confusion; therefore it should take up the issue in California. (Of the three cases of Trek wines sent to Wisconsin, one was ordered by the owner's aunt and another by a company employee.)

Trek Bicycles hasn't said whether it will refile the trademark lawsuit against the husband-and-wife operation in Marin County.

Apparently, it's somehow worried that people will confuse Trek Bicycle name with the Trek Winery name, because affiliate Trek Travel runs bicycle tours through the California wine country.

If Trek Bicycle goes through with this, there's no end to the Treks trademark lawsuits that could be filed, especially if the company is worried about confusion or dilution of its Trek Travel affiliate.

There's Northwest Trek, (Washington state animal park), Trek America Adventure Holidays, Sea Trek Kayaking, and of course the travel outfit servicing the final frontier, Star Trek.

This could keep the legal department busy for a long time.

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