I was notified by an inspector from the VQA today that the term "Ontario Wine/Vin d'Ontario" that appears on our labels needs to be removed as soon as possible because use of the word "Ontario" when associated with wine is controlled (Trademarked) by the VQA.
According to their material, VQA stands for Vintners Quality Alliance. VQA Ontario is an independent authority that establishes and monitors the province's “appellation of origin” system. All countries that produce wine have similar systems, which define their best grape-growing regions and set standards for their wines. (See www.vqaontario.ca/)
I have to admit that I was stunned and angry at first about this. My labels have been inspected by the LCBO many times and have always been deemed acceptable. We were told by our LCBO Auditor that they were compliant and have been since 2011.
The timing of this is actually not bad since I need to reorder labels shortly. The change is an easy one. From now on, it will read "Fruit Wine/Vin de Fruit" instead of "Ontario Wine/Vin d'Ontario".
Here is my question: When did it become legal to trademark a commonly used word, especially the name of the Province that was used to describe the origin of a product?
In our opinion, this IMPLIES 2 things:
1. A corporation or governing body can control the use of common language; and
2. The only Ontario wine is VQA wine.
Both of these concern me, especially since the VQA acts on behalf of the Ontario Government. (See https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/99v03)
Nonetheless, this is not a fight we feel is worth taking on.
If you are a lawyer and would like to challenge this particular trademark, you are more than welcome to.
If you want to petition the Ontario Government to cancel their trademark, have at it.
There may be a principle worth expressing, but we simply lack the funds and the drive to fight it.
And no, we do NOT want to raise a legal defense fund. Thanks, but please don't.
We will be increasing our capacity now that we can finally sell our wine at grocery stores and farmers' markets.
We will be hiring part-time workers to help sell our wines at farmers' markets.
We will be building a floating 860 square foot patio adjacent to the winery to welcome even more guests.
We will be holding regular pub and astronomy nights to help support our chosen charity of PTSD Service Dogs.
We feel that these are far better uses of time, energy, and funds.
We make fruit wine from Ontario raw materials, in Ontario, that is enjoyed by people in Ontario as well as across this and several other Countries. (People have actually taken some bottles back to their home Countries.) The only sad thing is that I believe that a little bit of our identity, namely our Province of origin, will now be hidden.
We proudly state that ours is a Product of Canada. If the Government of Ontario doesn't want any of the credit, that's their call... but in our opinion, we think that's kind of short-sighted.
Words don't change success.
Therefore, our labels will change as soon as possible.
Our website will be updated as soon as possible.
We just wanted to share that with you.
Thank you for making us so popular that organizations like the VQA took notice of our little Ontario winery. We aim to be even bigger going forward.