Juicy Tale,Marketing,Wine,Winery,You've Got to Be Kidding Me

Is This a Diamond in the Rough Story?

I remember reading a story by Cyril Penn in August, on WineBusiness.com, and I was flying by my seat of my pants at the time, but it hadn’t left my frontal lobe.

The story was called, Coppola’s Attorneys Lay Claim to the Word Diamond and or Diamond Shapes, and I thought, “What?”

It’s a great read, and puts the whole story out there.
Click on the link above; I’m not going to rewrite Cyril’s piece.

So, after reading the headline, I heard quiet grapevine rumblings, but was still running with scissors.

Today, however, I had a moment to read Cyril Penn’s story, and was taken aback, and not because F.F. Coppola was putting on a show. We all know he does a great job of that; but, because there seems to be some unfairness going on here, and I always lean toward the underdog… Don’t we all?

Big corporate company, so big the right hand doesn’t know
what the left hand is doing, and the left hand is connected
to some other body. Ah, capitalism…

So here’s what’s sticking in my craw, and I’d like your vote on this one, just for the heck of it…

Coppola’s lawyers are going after small wine companies that have the word “Diamond” in their labels, because Francis has one too. He wasn’t the first one to use it, mind you, he’s just decided to play king of the hill… all of a sudden.

Let’s take another noun, like “hill,” what the heck…

  • Sapphire Hill Winery
  • Judd’s Hill
  • Chalk Hill Winery
  • William Hill Estate Winery
  • Phillips Hill
  • Henschke Hill Of Grace
  • Sabile Wine Hill (Latvia)
  • Chatham Hill Winery
  • Swedish Hill Winery
  • Stone Hill Winery
  • Hill Family Estate
  • Eola Hills Wine Cellars
  • Bully Hill Vineyards  (This one could be a natural, being the bully and all)
  • Harmony Hill
  • Hill of Content
  • Orchid Hill
  • Texas Hills Vineyard
  • Dundee Hills
  • Winter’s Hill Vineyard
  • Smoky Hill Vineyards & Winery
  • Old Hill Ranch
  • Strawberry Hill
  • Cleo’s Hill
  • Rattlesnake Hills
  • Hollywood Hill Vineyards
  • Tickle Hill Winery

What if Sabile Wine Hill wanted to claim the word “hill” because  Sabile Wine Hill is officially the world’s most northern vineyard in its hemisphere, according to the Guinness World Records Book. You know… King of the Hill, “We made it, yadda yadda…”

Or, better yet, Hill Family Estate, because it’s their name?

Then there’s Bully Hill Vineyards, as I noted above, being the bully and all.

Texan Hills Vineyard has two hills… Big case there. They’ve got more hills than anyone else.

Dundee Hills ~ Oops, looks like it could be “first come first served,” as my dad used to like to tell me.

Hill of Content ~ Hey, Hill comes first in their name. Isn’t this a natural for just owning it outright?

Old Hill Ranch ~ one of Sonoma Valley’s oldest and most prestigious Zinfandel vineyards, founded in 1851. Now we’re talking. Everything starts in the vineyards, right? Why should any winery lay claim to Hill, because it starts in the vineyards.

Strawberry Hill ~ Good ole Boon’s Farm. How many of us started here, so – there you go. Reason to claim the name.

Rattlesnake Hills ~ Dangerous. Step back, give them lots of room, and let’s all just go home.

Tickle Hill Winery ~ A good way to end this insanity… Laughing our way out of here.

Although, for the small guys that Francis is going after, it just makes me wonder… Why? Diamonds are everywhere. No one is going to confuse you, Mr. Coppola. You’re a figure larger than life.

Is this nuts, or is it just me? What do you guys think?

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23 Responses to “Is This a Diamond in the Rough Story?”

  1. lynn says:

    Jo, I suspicion at times this may be more insidious than you think. I recall the case of a smallish, upscale central coast winery that became embroiled in a “name battle” with a very large winery concern. Evidently, the owner of said large wine concern had visited the small winery’s property and admired both the building and grounds. Shortly thereafter, the “name” lawsuit was filed by the legal department of his company. Without the financial and legal resources to fight the lawsuit, the small winery owner “caved” and sold his beautiful little winery to…..whom do you think? Right! Was it a coincidence? Maybe. What do I know? I was told that the legal departments of large wine concerns regularly comb through the role of wineries looking for such potential name infringements. Part of their job description. Such may be the case with FFC. The wine business ain’t what it used to be.

  2. Jo Diaz says:

    I wonder why it is that many people who become wealthy, seem to lose their heart and soul in the game of monopoly. I don’t ask, “How do they sleep at night?”, because Michael Jackson taught us all how that happens…

  3. Julie says:

    My feeling is that the big guys should stick to suing things their own size: Diamond Mountain (AVA), perhaps?

  4. M B Crosby says:

    Well,….I think Rosemount- Australia should turn and sue Coppola…They are the first ones i can remember…ie: Diamond Label Shiraz, sold millions of cases worldwide!!

  5. Jo Diaz says:

    Julie… Good one. Fair is fair.

  6. Jo Diaz says:

    M B,

    Great point.

    Maybe it would cost them too much though… Are the Coppola lawyers picking their battles?

  7. Mike says:

    Did Coppola go after Diamond Creek?
    DeBeers and Major League Baseball should be meeting with their legal teams.
    And Lou Diamond Phillips should be thinking about changing his name to Lou Precious Stone Phillips.
    So stupid.

  8. Jo Diaz says:

    I hear he’s going after a few small wine companies with “Diamond” in the name.

    Love the Lou Precious Stone Phillips… I puts everything into real perspective…

  9. How crazy is that, coveting the diamond name. The first thing I thought of in reading the beginning of your article was Diamond Mtn – that was there a long time before Coppola claimed the diamond in his logo. And though the mountain may be viewed as large by some the wineries on it are small – so do they have to remove the location of their vineyards if Coppola wins.

    In the meantime, hill appears safe but what about valley?

  10. Jake Stephens says:

    First I would like to say that I am perfectly in line with protecting ones intellectual property.

    However in this particular fight, I must question the motive behind fiing a cease and desist grivence, when it is blatantly obvious there are no intellectual similarities.

    I would suggest that even the simplist of individuals could not possibly misconstrue our small brand’s or label’s for those belonging to the Coppola empire.

    I do not know Mr. Coppola but I understand he is a fine individual. Therefore, I have begun to question the motives of counsel, is there a need to justify a position, retainer and/or alter ego here? Nothing else seems to make sense.

    Times are certainly difficult enough, without having the added expense of having to defend ourselves from frivolity. It is my hope that this does not filter down into our contractual relationships with our cornerstone wineries. We can ill afford to loose these!

    We are finding that we are not alone in this, there are others with the identical problem.

    Yes this is Jake Stephens, proprietor of Diamond Ridge Vineyards, and I would like to thank you for recognizing our plyte.

  11. Mike says:

    Jo, I hope I gave you a chuckle, not the candy or the clown.

    One of my customers just reminded me of the Gallo Wine vs. Gallo Cheese “brotherly love fest” and the recent Cristal vs. Cristalino battle.

    Could be just a rumor but Hillbillies and Valley Girls have retained legal counsel.

  12. Wine says:

    This is trully crazy…but is like all the rest in the world…who is thinking about the small?

  13. Jo Diaz says:

    Mike, it was the ha-ha chuckle…

  14. Jo Diaz says:

    Jake, Reading Cyril’s story just got me going… You’re welcome.

  15. Jo Diaz says:

    Grove is another good noun, as is oak. The list goes ever on, so I just don’t get a noun being intellectual property, just sayin’

  16. Marina C says:

    This morning I was just catching up on old SF Business Times issues and in the Aug.27 issue there is a mention about how FFC (under the guise of the Coppola Family Trust) is suing a Barcelona winemaker called Cavas Naveran because their labels look too much like the Sofia Blanc de Blancs. It’s a “trade dress” issue.

    Sounds like the legal team at Rubicon/Coppola is working overtime these days.


  17. Jo Diaz says:

    Wow… It begs, what kicked them into high gear? Cavas Naveran has been in business since the 11th Century, just doing quick research… I’m sure we’re all going to confuse the two brands when in the stores, while choosing which wine to buy…

  18. anon says:

    Some years ago Clover Dairy put up a billboard (in their long running “Clo” campaign) featuring Clo with a snorkle, as Jacque Cowsteau.
    The Cousteau Society promptly sued – for I recall 70 million.
    It settled out of court, neither party w/comment.

  19. Jo Diaz says:

    Thanks, anon,

    70 mil will make anyone sit up and take notice. A simple Cease and Desist does it, when it’s something like that.

    When I was in radio, one of the DJ’s used to call his show the Greatest Show FROM Earth. Barnum and Bailey came through town, and it only took a letter to shut that down. Seems to me that $70 mil is making a statement of “You defamed my father as a cow, and now you’re gonna pay.” A little extreme, because I love those ads as being very creative and harmless… Oh, well, I’ve never swum with sharks. That would certainly give me a different perspective…

  20. Cyril Penn says:

    I’m told that in trademark law, the winner doesn’t collect attorney’s fees from the other side, even when they prevail. That makes it difficult for the small wineries and is why they feel Coppola is a bully here. Coppola’s attorneys have gone after other wineries not mentioned in the article too, so it probably just scratched the surface. Also, the firm working on this for Coppola was recently found guilty of malicious prosecution in another case. … to be continued.

  21. charmion says:

    I belive the movie is called, “The Harder They Fall”. As in, The Bigger They Are, The Stupider They Act. And Shakespeare, well, he did say, first, we will kill all the lawyers. And that was over 150 years before King George III drove us to independece. I love FFC suing a 900 yr old winery over infringement. Does anybody want to chime in about Duckhorn suing a winery on the Long Island Duckwalk for same? Long Island wineries cannot use the word duck. Ducks were on Long Island even before the Spanish Cava producer made its’ first bottle of fizz, if nature serves my chronology well. Consumers should sue FFC for selling salad dressing in the wine aisles. That was salad dressing in those hourglass “Encyclopedia” bottles, wasn’t it? And he sued the makers of the closure for oxidation due to poor quality control. He should fire a bunch of his employees who sold him on the idea of that stupid bottle with a 2 inch wide closure.

  22. Jo Diaz says:

    Cyril, thanks for shining even more light on this firm.

  23. Roger says:


    It’s truly amazing how puerile some can become.

    It reminds me of my friend down here who had been harrassed incessantly by a South Coast winery. Screaming Eagle Winery went after the jugular of Eagles Nest Winery claiming they were duplicating their name.

    Hmm, Screaming Eagle ~ Eagles Nest. Nope, I can’t see the similarity.

    This is what transpires when a wineries vanity crosses paths with a lawyers greed.

    Excellent story, as usual 🙂

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