TTB Update

By Michael Kaiser

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau is still facing major delays in the review of Certificate of Label Approvals. As it stands now, it is taking 30 days for an online submission and 60 days for a paper submission. If you are going to be submitting a wine label for approval please allow for adequate time for review.

One question that comes up a lot with wine labels is trademarking. The TTB does not regulate trademarks. Their only concern is the accuracy of the wine label and if it is compliant with the laws and regulations. To clarify this further, the TTB has issued a statement of clarification about trademarking:

Does my TTB certificate of label approval mean I have trademark protection?

TTB’s authority to issue certificates of label approval (COLAs) for alcohol beverage products does not include trademark protection, as is stated in the instructions for TTB Form 5100.31, Application for and Certification/Exemption of Label/Bottle Approval. While TTB may be aware of an established trademark when acting on an application for a COLA, that awareness is important only for carrying out the labeling authority under the deception and misleading standards imposed by the Federal Alcohol Administration Act and not for purposes of Federal law applicable to trademarks. Therefore, TTB approval of a COLA neither automatically confers trademark protection, nor indicates that a particular mark may be used in violation of applicable intellectual property law.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) provides for trademark registrations and guides United States domestic and international intellectual property policies. The USPTO Web site address is www.uspto.gov/. You may find the USPTO’s list of frequently asked questions on the subject of trademarks particularly helpful: www.uspto.gov/faq/trademarks.jsp. The USPTO also has a Web site on trademark protection specifically designed for small business owners at www.uspto.gov/smallbusiness/.

If you have any questions about this please contact me at mkaiser@wineamerica.org.