RUTLAND, Vt. (AP) -- A Vermont company that makes hard cider is suing a Vermont coffee company for trademark infringement over the use of the word "woodchuck."
Vermont Hard Cider Co. filed a complaint against Woodchuck Coffee Roasters in U.S. District Court last week seeking an unspecified financial award and an injunction preventing further trademark infringement over the woodchuck name, a colloquial term for a hardy Vermonter.
In the suit, the Middlebury company says it's spent substantial money building brand awareness for its Woodchuck Hard Cider since 1991. Woodchuck has grown to become the nation's best-selling brand of hard cider, with annual sales of more than 3 million cases, the complaint says.
The company says Woodchuck Coffee Roasters' coffee logo is "strikingly similar" to its hard cider label, with an oval logo with a woodchuck sitting on its haunches. The logo and name are creating confusion and have led to Vermont residents asking if the cider company has gone into the coffee business, the suit says.
Woodchuck Coffee Roasters is based in South Burlington and was incorporated in 2011. A co-owner of the coffee company told the Rutland Herald that his company's name and logo were never intended to imitate the better-known cider company.
"We were thinking of names and my brother said ‘we're a couple of woodchucks' -- our family has been in Vermont several generations -- so why not?" said Tony Basiliere, who runs the company with his brother, Jim Basiliere. "I didn't like it but he wore me down and I said, ‘What the hell, at least there's no other coffee company out there using the Woodchuck name."'
He asked how a company can lay claim to the word "woodchuck."
"The general consensus of people I talk to is you don't own ‘Woodchuck' just like Green Mountain Coffee (Roasters) doesn't own ‘Green Mountain,"' he said.