Wine Spectator publisher sues Weed Spectator

A participant practices rolling a joint in Seattle, Washington April 20, 2014 (L) and a Belgian winemaker shows a glass of in Baulers, Belgium July 6, 2018 (R). REUTERS/Jason Redmond/Yves Herman/File Photo

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wine doesn’t pair well with weed, according to a new lawsuit.

M. Shanken Communications Inc, the publisher of Wine Spectator magazine, has filed a lawsuit accusing the northern California-based operators of Weed Spectator of infringing its trademarks, and copying its familiar 100-point rating scale for wine to rate cannabis.

In a complaint filed on Tuesday, M. Shanken said Sacramento-based Modern Wellness Inc, “in a classic case of ‘passing off,’” created a website and social media pages for Weed Spectator that bear “striking similarities” to Wine Spectator’s own website and e-magazine.

M. Shanken, based in New York City, also objected to a Weed Spectator trademark application featuring a logo using the Wine Spectator font, and said searching for “Weed Spectator” in Google or Apple’s App store returned results for Wine Spectator.

The plaintiff, whose founder Marvin Shanken bought Wine Spectator in 1979, said Weed Spectator is likely to confuse consumers. Wine Spectator magazine has about 3 million readers.

“M. Shanken has no interest in associating Wine Spectator and the Wine Spectator marks with cannabis, a largely illegal drug,” the complaint said. “Any association of this type is likely to tarnish the reputation and goodwill that has been built up in the Wine Spectator marks and business for decades, resulting in dilution of the brand.”

Modern Wellness and its principals could not immediately be reached on Wednesday for comment. M. Shanken and its law firm did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court seeks triple damages and an injunction against using the Weed Spectator mark.

The case is M. Shanken Communications Inc v Modern Wellness Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 18-08050.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bill Trott