Wine distributor David Martin filed a temporary restraining order against Wines Unlimited, Inc. in Orleans Parish Civil District Court, Louisiana, on September 21, 2012 because of a name conflict between his business and the defendant.
Martin claims that he has owned and operated “Wines Unlimited” in Louisiana since 1950. He alleges trade name infringement, trade name dilution, unfair and deceptive trade practices, and unjust enrichment. The defendant appears to have been operating since 1997.
This case will be interesting, because Martin didn’t register his trade name with the Secretary of State until August 24, 2012. He filed for the trademark with the Patent and Trademark Office on the same day. The defendant is based on Pennsylvania and filed a similar trademark on September 28, 2012.
Regardless of how this case turns out, the lesson small business owners can learn is that careful planning can prevent this type of dispute. Both companies should have invested in their intellectual property protections decades ago, when they started their companies, to ensure that they owned the rights in their names. A careful search by Wines Unlimited back in 1997 when they started their business may have discovered this Louisiana distributor. It would have been much easier (and cheaper) to change their name then.