Proposed Bill Would Significantly Affect Farm Labor Contractors

A bill currently before the California State Legislature will, if passed, significantly modify the requirements for obtaining and maintaining a Farm Labor Contractor’s License. 

 Among other things, SB 1087 would: (i) prevent any person who, within the preceding 3 years, has been found to have committed sexual harassment of an employee from obtaining a license; [Read more...]

TTB Clarifies Requirements for Sale of Refillable Wine Growlers

On March 11, 2014, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (“TTB”) published a ruling clarifying that only those wine businesses that qualify as “taxpaid wine bottling houses” may bottle and sell refillable wine growlers for consumption off the premises. 

 The term “growler” is used to describe any container that is designed to be securely covered and intended to be filled or refilled with wine for purposes of off-premise consumption.  [Read more...]

Sonoma County Conjunctive Labeling Requirement

A recently promulgated regulation under the California Alcohol Administration Act changes the way Sonoma County vintners may label their wines.  Under California Business & Professions Code Section 25246, wines bottled after January 1, 2014 and labeled with a Sonoma County sub-American Viticultural Area (“AVA”) (e.g. Sonoma Coast, Fort Ross Seaview), must also now bear the designation “Sonoma County.”  Napa Valley has had a similar requirement since 1990.

[Read more...]

Trademark Squatting and Defensive Registration in China

Recently, there have been several instances of “trademark squatting” in China.  “Trademark squatting” refers to the act of registering a trademark in hopes of selling it at a premium to its rightful owner.  China has a “first to file” trademark system, under which an unrelated third party may file trademark application for a brand name without showing use in commerce. 

Some companies and individuals who are familiar with the Chinese system have begun researching valuable foreign wine brands and registering their names, making the winery vulnerable to an infringement lawsuit if it sells its products in China.  Many wineries, including the French Castel brand, have fallen victim to this practice.

[Read more...]

Third Party (Unlicensed) Providers

What is a Third Party Provider?

A Third Party Provider (“TPP”) is an unlicensed entity that provides services such as marketing, fulfillment logistics, payment processing and other business services to parties that are licensed to sell wine.  TPPs like Lot 18, WSJ Wine, and various smartphone applications came into being with the rise in e-commerce. 

Why should wineries be concerned?

There are several reasons why wineries should be concerned about the participation of TPPs in their online sales.  There are currently no laws that address TPP activity directly, and the regulators are scrutinizing TPP participation in the sale of wine for several reasons.  Fundamentally, licenses are required to sell alcohol.  Under the California Business and Professions Code, “selling” includes soliciting or receiving orders, which implicates the activities of TPPs.  Because a license is a personal right, it cannot be shared with another party.  Further, licensees must know and follow relevant alcoholic beverage laws, which is complicated by the fact that there is no uniform set of laws regarding the sale of alcohol.  Each state is generally free to regulate however it wishes.  Consequently, each state may treat TPPs, such as an unlicensed retailer, in a different manner. [Read more...]

TTB Guidance on Exporting Wine to China

With China’s growing interest in California wines, many producers are seeking guidance from wine compliance and legal professionals about how to successfully and efficiently export their products to China.  Last month, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (“TTB”) published general instructions for using a new, one-page “Wine Export Certificate” that will be accepted by the People’s Republic of China beginning on March 1st, 2014.

Previously, the People’s Republic of China required United States exporters of wine to file several certificates before allowing the products to enter the country.  The new “Wine Export Certificate” (also referred to as the “Consolidated Certificate”) is a consolidated, multi-purpose document which can be used as a certificate of origin, a certificate of health and sanitation, and a certificate of authenticity and free sale. [Read more...]

Avoiding Employment Litigation

Despite careful planning on the part of business owners, lawsuits cannot be entirely avoided in all cases; however, can business owners take steps to reduce the risk of litigation?

The answer to this question is explored in a recent article in The New York Times. The article reports on the recent lawsuit against West Coast Trends, a California company that makes golf bags and accessories. The lawsuit against the company was brought by a former employee, John Keller, who alleged that the company wrongfully terminated him and sought damages of more than $1 million. [Read more...]

Navigating the Landmines of Business Family Succession

Many business owners mistakenly believe that selling their business to a family member will be far easier than selling to a stranger. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Both the fate of the business and familial relationships are on line. An improper handling of business succession can be disastrous, dividing family members and ruining relationships.

A recent article on Inc.com provides the secrets to an effective business succession. The article gives a number of valuable tips, including the following: [Read more...]

How to Prevent Abuse of Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is an essential estate planning document allowing you to give another person the power and responsibility to act in your place. There are several different types, including financial, health care, and durable powers of attorney. Financial power of attorney gives an individual, or agent, the ability to manage your finances. Health care power of attorney gives the agent the legal authority to make health care decisions on your behalf. Durable power of attorney is unique in that it gives the agent the authority to make decisions for you after you are incapacitated. [Read more...]

New Guidelines for Wineries and Social Media Marketing

Recently, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau released new guidelines for how wineries, breweries, and distilleries can market on social media.

The North Bay Business Journal reports that these guidelines make the formal distinction that “all activity on social media for such businesses is a form of advertising and thus subject to oversight.”

Businesses are required to provide a disclosure stating that the alcoholic product is geared for adults. [Read more...]

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