Did you know that there are currently over 7,000 wineries in the US? That number doesn’t even begin to tell us just how many brands of wine come out of those thousands of winery sites but safe to say it is easily well over 10 times that amount. So just what is in a brand name when it comes to wine? And what do you need to know in going about setting one up if you are a winery or planning to start a wine business? There are specific steps you can follow as part of your research for creating that new wine brand you are so excited about that can save you from running into some potential road blocks down the road.
Step one: Do a search on the TTB’s Public COLAs website. The cost of this? Your time. As the name implies this is a public website that can be searched by anyone wanting to look up label approval information, or in this case, do a fast & easy search to see if a brand name is already in use by a winery or wine business. The site address is: https://www.ttbonline.gov/colasonline/publicSearchColasBasic.do Once there simply enter the brand name you are planning to use in the Product Name box and then click on Search. Then peruse through the list that comes up focusing on the Brand Name column.
Step two: Do a trademark search using the US Patent & Trademark’s Office website. Their site has handy video tutorials for doing this. http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/basics/index.jsp This step can also be done with the assistance of a trademark specialist or attorney.
Step three: Once your brand name of choice has “passed” the first two steps on our list you are now ready to get it set up for use at the winery site where the wine bearing it’s name will eventually be bottled. This is where we cross over into the TTB’s regulations. A brand name is a required item for all wine labels, and is required to appear on the brand (front) label.
The TTB does not require informing them of all brand names you plan to use on wines you bottle, but it does require informing them of all the trade names you plan to use on wines you bottle. The brand name and trade name on a wine may or may not be the same. A trade name is what appears in another required wine label item, the name and address statement. A name and address statement is what typically appears on the back of a wine bottle and goes something like, “bottled by ABC Winery, Somewhere, CA”. In my example here ABC Winery is a trade name.
Whatever names are going to appear in that specific part of your wine labels on wines you bottle must be submitted to the TTB to be added onto your basic permit. The process for doing this is simple. First you will need to have a fictitious business name statement (FBN) on file at your county level for the trade names. Next you type up on your winery letterhead a simple letter informing them of the trade name(s) you are adding to your basic permit.
The template for this trade name letter can be found on the TTB’s website. *Note* If the trade names you are adding are for a custom crush client at your site then you will also need a signed letter from them giving you permission to bottle their wines under their specified trade names which they are responsible for obtaining the FBN filing.
As you may have guessed since it is common for wineries to bottle wines under multiple brand names then they also have a long list of trade names listed on their TTB basic permit. The person or persons at a winery site that are involved in filing and maintaining the label approvals should also be aware of this list, and potentially in charge of maintaining it.