Penfolds ‘copycat’ fires back at TWE

Rush Rich winery, accused by Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) of copycatting its flagship wine brand Penfolds, has fired back against the Australian wine giant with a cross claim in a federal court.

Rush Rich was spotted by dbHK last year at China’s Chengdu wine fair

“We reject, in the strongest terms, Treasury Wine Estate’s assertion that we have infringed any trademark held by Treasury Wine Estates and will contest this vigorously in the Federal Court,” Rush Rich Winery’s owner Vincent Zhao, told the Adelaide Advertiser.

The comments were made by the winery after it filed a cross claim at a federal court against TWE, a few months after TWE sued Rush Rich for infringing its trademark rights of Penfolds and its Chinese translated name Ben Fu (奔富), meaning ‘chasing prosperity’ in English, which can also be literally reverse translated from Chinese to English as ‘Rush Wealth’ or ‘Rush Rich’.

Based in Adelaide, South Australia, the Rush Rich brand is believed to be sourced and bottled through bulk wine suppliers and third party bottlers in the state, and then exported under labels that copy the look and feel of Penfolds’ wines.

Mimicking Penfolds’ ‘Bin’ series, the wines by Rush Rich created a ‘Vin’ series and ‘R’ series, and use the same Chinese name奔富 on its back label, leading TWE to believe the winery has infringed its rights to Penfolds and its Chinese trademarks.

TWE’s lawsuit against Rush Rich came at a time when the company had declared a war against copycat Penfolds to stamp out the “nonsense” of fake Penfolds in the marketplace, especially in mainland China, where its brand has been much faked to produce lookalike bottles or outright replicated by fraudsters, churning out counterfeit bottles en masse from shoddy workshops.

Despite the resemblance, Zhao reiterated: “There is no similarity in design between our wine labels and that of Penfolds.”

“Our product range does not in any way resemble the Penfolds’ range,’’ he added. Instead he claimed that the Chinese characters have been trademarked in China and “have been authorised by the holder of the trademark in China to use it on products exported to China.”

TWE, however, is confident about the case against Rush Rich. Its CEO Michael Clarke previously remarked: “The infringing products and misleading claims these operators are making, and the association they falsely claim to have with our brands are unconscionable. We are putting on notice any bad faith operators in Australia – and anyone working with these operators – that this exploitation will not be tolerated.”

The high profile trademark case also spurred Wine Australia, the country’s wine bureau, to tighten up its export regulations last month, giving it broader powers to suspend and deny export licenses to Australian companies if the wines being made are found to be copycats of existing brands.

China has single-highhandedly become Australia’s most valuable export market in just a few short years and TWE is among the country’s biggest and best-known wine producers overseas. Australian wine exports to China are expected to grow further next year as China will completely eliminate import tariffs on Australian wines from January 2019 as based on the two countries Free Trade Agreement. 

The ongoing lawsuit is the latest TWE has taken on after it won a landmark legal case in the Beijing High People’s Court in China last year that supported TWE’s lawful right to use and market the Ben Fu trademark in China.

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