A North Coast brewery name must change because it contains the word Cambria and an implication of alcohol, and the parent firm for a Santa Maria winery has that combination trademarked, according to an attorney’s letter sent to Cambria Beer Company on New Year’s Eve.
What a way to start a new year.
Since then, owners Aaron and Jennifer Wharton have tried to negotiate a settlement with Jackson Family Farms, which owns such entities as Kendall-Jackson Estate Winery and the Cambria Estate Winery in Santa Maria. Those negotiations had failed by Monday, Jan. 12, Aaron Wharton told The Cambrian, and the couple decided to rebrand their Cambria firm.
Ultimately, the larger company wanted more control than Wharton was willing to give, he said.
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"We aren’t out to harm the beer company nor any other Cambria-based businesses," Aimee Sands, senior communications manager for Cambria Estate Winery, wrote in an email. "In fact, we tried to work together on a free solution that would let them continue using the name. Instead, they decided to find a new name they can protect with a trademark of their own."
The Whartons hadposted on their Facebook page
Tuesday, Jan. 6, about the “cease and desist order regarding our name. It seems this out-of-county winery owns the trademark Cambria … We can no longer call our little brewery ‘Cambria Beer Company.’ ‘The Beer Company of Cambria’ is out as well. Very sad times around the Wharton household and in the environment of the CBC as well.”
Jennifer Wharton said that to create the trademark conflict, the business name or model has to include alcohol of some kind.
“Wine, spirits and beer are not separate products in the eyes of federal trademark laws,” Aaron Wharton explained.
The Whartons had asked Facebook friends to help them rename the business, and within hours were flooded with dozens of suggestions, along with indignant postings about what some seemed to regard as high-handed legal maneuvering in a David vs. Goliath-type battle.
“We’re searching two names through trademark files,” Aaron Wharton said Wednesday, Jan. 14.
As one poster wrote, “Someone can not own a trademark of a city. Then every business with the name Cambria will have to change. … seems like someone is trying to bring you down. Some people!”
Others wondered what the ramifications were for other businesses with Cambria in their names, such as the Cambria Pines Lodge, which has used that name since the 1930s.
Most other in-town business names that include the word Cambria don’t include or cover an alcoholic product, however, which apparently is the trigger for trademark infringement claimed by Jackson Family Farms.
One Facebook poster even suggested a crowd-funding campaign to help the Whartons battle big business.
The Whartons say the first round of such a legal battle would cost at least $50,000 and they can’t afford to fight the larger firm. So, they’re going to switch rather than fight.
It’s not the first such alcohol-related trademark conflict in Cambria. Years ago, Beefeaters gin ordered Gary and Helen Bunn to stop using Beefeater’s Restaurant as the name for their popular eatery. After battling for a while, the Bunns gave up the fight and changed their restaurant’s name to The Sea Bear.