Michigan companies battle over name

What's in a name? In Michigan, the Chateau Grand Traverse winery is trying to stop the Grand Traverse Distillery from continuing to use the name by filing a federal lawsuit.

It's not the first shot fired in the war over naming rights. When Grand Traverse Distillery filed a trademark application for its name, Chateau Grand Traverse filed an objection. The distillery, which has been getting a fair amount of press since introducing its True North Vodkas, contends there is no infringement.

“We’re keeping our name. We’re going forward,” said Kent Rabish, owner of Grand Traverse Distillery.

In its trademark and federal court filings, The Old Mission winery says it has used the name “Chateau Grand Traverse” since 1977 and the stylized, all-capital letters name since 1992. It formally registered the trademarks in January and February 2007, and was granted the registration later that year. Grand Traverse Distillery filed for trademark protection of its name in July 2005, acquired its license in June 2006 and began production in January 2007.

Rabish said searches prior to deciding on his company’s name uncovered no problems and that the local telephone book contains numerous businesses that use Grand Traverse in their name.

“No one had a trademark on Grand Traverse Distillery,” he told the Traverse City Business News. “You can’t trademark a geographic region.

“I didn’t call Grand Traverse Pie Company and ask them could I use the name. I didn’t call Grand Traverse Auto, and I certainly didn’t call Chateau Grand Traverse.”

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