E & J Gallo, the enormous, privately held wine company, is well-known (notorious?) for protecting their brand. Ernest and Julio sued their own brother Joseph in 1986 to prevent him from marketing his cheese as “Joseph Gallo.” They also sued unrelated East Bay company, Gallo Salume Inc., to limit the number of their meat products that could carry the name.
A couple of weeks ago, E & J Gallo cranked the lawsuit-o-meter up a notch: They sued a Seattle gourmet food store for selling a Spanish pasta called Gallo. On the forums of the Seattle Times, Steve Winston, the owner of The Spanish Table in Pike Place Market, comments that Pastas Gallo dates from 1874 while E & J Gallo dates from 1933.
In Ernest Gallo’s obituary, the Times of London further summarized Gallo’s legal actions:
In 1990 the company successfully sued the Gallo Nero wine consortium of Chianti who had used the word “gallo” (cockerel) on their bottles. Ten years later the brothers took the Chianti wine-makers to court again over their domaine name.
In the meantime they put pressure on a small domaine called Santa Marcellina in Chianti because they had a “Marcellina” trade-mark among the many they had patented. In 1994 they attacked a Mexican company called Pasatiempos Gallo. In 2002 it was the turn of a lady potter in Texas, who used the word “gallo” because she made ceramic representations of roosters. Gallo himself made no excuses for his behaviour, saying: “We don’t want most of the business. We want it all.”
While it’s no doubt important for mark holders to protect their marks, there’s no point in being a cockerel about it. The situation smacks of Monster Cable’s overreaching and suing a mini-golf company and engendering consumer ill will. Perhaps we should take a page from Gizmodo’s book and come up with a list of items that Gallo legal eagles might want to put in their sight: