Sazerac Limited to Attorney’s Fees in Trade-Dress Suit
A federal court has ruled that Sazerac Co. may take Fetzer Vineyards, Inc. to trial for its trade-dress claims but cannot seek damages because it failed to disclose damage calculations in a timely manner. Sazerac Co. v. Fetzer Vineyards, Inc., No. 15-4618 (N.D. Cal, order entered April 27, 2017). Sazerac, maker of Buffalo Trace bourbon, alleged Fetzer’s use of a buffalo and the words “bourbon barrel aged” on the label of its 1000 Stories zinfandel infringed its federal trademark and trade-dress rights.
Sazerac “demonstrated a triable issue whether consumers are likely to be confused by Fetzer’s buffalo and trade dress,” the court found. However, Sazerac indicated it would provide damage calculations based on expert testimony, but it failed to propose a valid methodology until shortly before the settlement conference, when it instead presented calculations based on third-party licensing agreements. Because of the irremediable prejudice to Fetzer, the court ruled that Sazerac’s recovery at trial would be limited to attorney’s fees.