Friday, December 3, 2010

Interstate wine shipping possibly on its way back to Supreme Court

In the next few weeks it is expected that the Supreme Court will decide whether to grant certiorari to hear the appeal of the case of Siesta Village Market, LLC v. Steen, 595 F.3d 239 (5th Cir. 2010)The Siesta Village case was decided earlier this year by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal which held that a Texas law which allows Texas retailers to ship wine directly to Texas consumers, but forbids out-of-state retailers from doing so, is constitutional and not a violation of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.  The plaintiff in the case, which represents the interests of a nationwide coalition of wine retailers, has argued that in the wake of the 2005 Supreme Court decision in Granholm v. Heald which held that states states may not favor in-state wineries in allowing their direct shipment of wine to consumers while forbidding direct shipment of wine to such same consumers by out-of-state wineries, similar laws favoring in-state wine retailers over out-of-state wine retailers should also be struck down.  The issue of direct shipment by retailers presents certain distinct legal nuances when compared with direct shipment by wineries, so it is possible the Supreme Court may decide to revisit the issue in this context.  This could be especially interesting in light of the change in composition of the Court since 2005.

Stay tuned ....

TTB Seeking Comments on Clarifying Use of Various Winemaking Terms

TTB has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking input from industry concerning whether certain winemaking terms are understood by consumers to convey specific information and whether TTB should define how such terms may be used on wine labels and in advertising.  Some of the terms being considered for more specific regulatory definition by TTB include "estate," "vineyard," "ranch" and "reserve."  This should be of particular concern to brand owners since greater regulatory definition could require that they remove these terms from their trademarks and trade names necessitating the filing of new trademark applications, fictitious business name statements, ABC license applications and COLAs.

The public has until January 3, 2011 to submit comments.  The full text of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking may be found here: