The Law: Protecting a Good Name

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One such case involves New York Winemaker Walter Taylor and the Taylor Wine Co., founded by his grandfather during the late 19th century in New York's Finger Lakes district and now owned by Coca-Cola. Taylor worked for the firm until 1970, when he was fired after denouncing vintners—including his company—that "adulterated" their product with "tank car," i.e., cheap imported wines. By then, however, he was already producing' limited quantities of his own private-label, "pure" wines from grapes grown only a short distance from the Taylor vineyards on a mountain called Bully Hill, outside Hammondsport, N.Y., that was originally farmed by his grandfather.

At first the Taylor company ignored the maverick winemaker. But when Taylor moved his name from the back to the front label on his bottles, and added such messages as "Bully Hill Vineyards—home of the original Taylor Family Wines since 1878," the company went to court and got a preliminary injunction against illegal use of its name. Said Taylor President Joseph L. Swarthout: "Our assets were in jeopardy, just as if somebody was trying to burn down the winery or punch a hole in the tank."

As well as a winemaker, Walter is a an artist, lecturer on oenology and operator of the Taylor family wine museum on Bully Hill. But he quickly found himself over a barrel. Because of the injunction, his lawyer said, he would not only have to change his labels but cease using his name on almost everything he did, including signing his paintings.

That order is being appealed, but the main skirmish remains to be fought in U.S. district court. Invoking provisions of the Lanham Act, the Taylor company is demanding that he stop using "Taylor" wine labels and is asking for treble damages. In defense, Walter's lawyers are saying that the Taylor company should have brought suit when it felt the first infringement occurred rather than waiting until business began booming. Company officials hint that they are willing to settle out of court if Taylor moves his name to he back of the bottle again, but he refuses to budge. Says the spirited winemaker from Bully Hill: "I'd rather be bankrupt and walking the streets as a pauper than not be able to use my name." -

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