Sunday, 18 August

Eduardo Eurnekian’s Niece Speaks Up: Defends the “Karas” Wine Trademark

Hetq earlier wrote about the trademark dispute between Tierras de Armenia (the company founded by Argentine tycoon Eduardo Eurnekian which produces the Karas line of wines) against Zorik Gharibyan, who produces the Zorah line of wines, and published the open letter by Gharibyan, addressed to Eurnekian.

While waiting for the decision by Appeals Court to be published this month, Hetq met with Juliana Del Aguila Eurnekian, the niece of Eduardo Eurnekian, who is the general director of Karas Wine.

Why did Karas Wine wait four years before going to court?

She says the reason for applying to the Court only in 2016, four years after registering the trademarks, was because they found out late about the confusion between Karas and Karasi Zorah.

She recalls a case when she ordered some Karas and was offered Karasi Zorah instead. "Consumers should know exactly what products they are buying. I believe Karasi Zorah is fantastic wine, but I also do not want it to be confused with Karas," Juliana says.

“I’m not against using the word karas, so long as it doesn’t create confusion”

When we noted that Karasi Zorah is produced in much less volumes and the market is mostly abroad, and thus it cannot compete with Karas, Juliana said that it's not the competition that matters in this case. She says they tried to solve everything with Gharibyan before applying to the court, but couldn’t agree on a solution.

Juliana says they are not against Gharibyan using the word "karas" when describing the way his wine is produced in amphora (karas) vessels, but the trademark shouldn’t confuse consumers.

Tierras de Armenia’s vineyards

Manufacturers of Karas say that no matter how big the "Z" letter is on the Karasi Zorah brand, foreigners who do not understand Armenian first read “KARASi” written below, which leads to a confusion.

Here, Juliana Eurnekian responds to some of Hetq's questions.

Will you sue all the wine companies that use the word "karas" from now on?

Of course not, this word can be used to describe how the wine was prepared, but not as a trademark to be confused with our brand. That’s it.

Since December last year, several Armenian winemakers have spoken about karas being a part of Armenian cultural heritage, and that nobody has the right to monopolize it.

All these rumors that we want to monopolize use of the word karas is false information: they only want to get more attention.

Is Mr. Eurnekian going to respond to Zorik Gharibyan's open letter, which was published in Hetq?

He is not going to respond, since it was a very aggressive letter. Mr. Eurnekian has made huge investments in Armenia - the airport (Zvartnots), the bank (Converse), big charities. He cannot spend time on such things.

Juliana says her uncle’s goal was to create jobs and a product here, that would be of high quality and represent Armenia abroad. He didn’t want to create problems. Conversations about the monopolization attempt, according to the businessman's niece, have nothing to do with the reality.

It’s business, not personal

As for suing Voskevaz Wine Factory on the same grounds, Juliana says they cooperate with a company dealing with trademarks.

Tierras de Armenia’s wine cellar

"When the company sees that a new trademark appears in the market, which can be confused with our product, we appeal to the court. Same in the Voskevaz case. I don’t know the current status of the case, but we have applied for the trademark to be removed. I would like to note that we do not want them to have issues or not to produce at all. It's just a matter of maintaining the trademark,” says Juliana.

Two similar applications - two opposite answers

However, there is a company that can sue Tierras de Armenia CJSC instead.

Shahumyan-Vin LLC applied to the Intellectual Property Agency (IPA) to register its “KARASI WINE” trademark before Tierras de Armenia or Saki and Sans. This company is said to belong to the former MP Karo Karapetyan (aka Juvetsi Karo).

When Saki and Sans tried to register their “KARASI” trademark in March 2011, they were rejected for the following reason: "The word "KARASI" cannot be registered because wine consumers will believe that the wine was stored in karas. It’s also confusingly similar to “KARASI WINE”, registered earlier.”

This justification and refusal were not applied later, in September 2011, when the IPA received Tierras de Armenia’s application, which was eventually approved in 2012.

What prompted the Armenia’s IPA to give two contradictory answers to two similar applications, and which one is legally correct? Only the trademark division of the IPA can answer this.

When we asked whether they were aware that before the two companies started disputing the trademark, the "KARASI WINE" trademark had been registered by Shahumyan-Vin LLC, Tierras de Armenia employees were quite surprised.

Regarding this, Juliana Eurnekian said: "This is more of a legal issue. Fortunately, we have good lawyers dealing with these cases, and they will discuss this. I’m more worried about the reputation of my family. I want to preserve the great investment that has been done, and to maintain our trademark.”

Photos: Vahe Sarukhanyan and from the Internet

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Comments (12)
1. aram07:56 - 9 February, 2018
Էդուարդո Էռնեկյանի զարմուհի Խուլիանա Դել Ագիլա Էռնեկյան քո քեռու հետ միասին եկել ես ասպատակելու եվ գերշահույթ ստանալու Հայաստանից։
2. Vazgen 17:42 - 9 February, 2018
Armenians around the world and in Armenia need to boycott Karas until they agree to stop bothering other local businesses with this BS. If they are going to make such a big deal about this they should at the very least actually use the karas in the production of their wine. This is like a scotch company who doesn't use sherry casks to age their scotch trademarking sherry cask and not allowing other scotch makers who actually age it as such to say they do., RIDICULOUS!
3. Dikran18:38 - 9 February, 2018
How can anyone confuse these two wines? Juliana's argument is flawed.
4. Mel22:11 - 9 February, 2018
You would think that with all the millions invested and all the means at their disposal, (marketing teams, lawyers, trade mark experts etc. etc.) Karas wines would have thought carefully about choosing a brand name. Instead stupidly and ignorantly they have gone and registered a common word which is also a wine making vessel. They talk about how they don’t want their trademark confused- “consumers should know exactly what product they are buying” says Juliana. If you put the word Karas on a wine label together with a clay jar then it is inevitable that the consumer will consciously or subconsciously associate the wine with the Karas, but the consumer is certainly not buying a product which is in any way connected with Karas wine-making. How can you even make the argument that the consumer should know exactly what he/she is buying to justify your actions, when you are the one creating the confusion? To add insult to injury she then claims that they have nothing against winemakers using the word Karas as long as it can’t be confused with their brand. So exactly where does she suggest that they write the word Karas? On some obscure corner at the back of their label? Karas wines is digging its own grave. Instead of suing the Armenian winemakers for the mess they have created for themselves maybe they should think about suing the genius who came up with the idea of using Karas as a brand name and leave the other winemakers in peace to do what they are doing!! They should give up this absurdity if they don't want to damage their image more than what they have already done!
5. Levon22:37 - 9 February, 2018
Why is Juliana lying about the fact that her company is suing anyone who uses the word “karas” on their wine label to describe a wine made in karas, like their lawsuit against Voskevaz company that did not trademark but only wrote “Karasi Collection” in small fonts on the front label to describe their wine made in karas. As a consumer and a wine lover, I would like to know if a wine was made in karas when reading the label, and frankly I’m offended by anyone using the word Karas on their wine, if they have not used Karas to make their wine. The precedent of the two lawsuits against companies that use Karas to make wine and label their wine as such, is very dangerous to the future of Armenian wine making. The confusion in the labels is caused by Eurnekian receiving bad advice and making a bad decision by mysteriously being allowed to name his wine “karas”, not the fault of wine makers who use Karas to make their wine and label it as such. There are plenty of other ways available for Eurnekian to solve the confusion problem, he can easily add another word to his “karas” brand such as “Tierras de Karas” or just flat out change “karas” to any other name that is not a generic wine word, and the confusion will stop. Juliana should understand that no matter how much money her uncle has, respect cannot be purchased and no lawyer can win a case against Armenia’s wine history and future. In a small country like Armenia where history and culture is a matter of pride, she would be wise to stay away from her fancy attorneys suing Armenian wine makers doing their duty by honoring our thousands of years of wine making tradition. The comfort of knowing you can walk around comfortably in your homeland of Armenia without being despised and frowned upon is worth all the money in the world.
6. Hagop03:42 - 10 February, 2018
The problem I see is in the law. "Karas" should not have been allowed to be trademarked in the first place, since it is a cultural and historic wine vessel. This is actually common too. In the USA for example, "Apple" is trademarked as well and no one can use it to describe electronics. The Government has this part of the responsibility and should have thought of this before handing out a trademark. But I don't completely dismiss Eurnekian's claims either because if one company makes a name succeed, then others who start using similar names unfairly capitalize on the trademark company holder's success, which is not fair competition. Looking at Zorik's label for example, the word "Karasi" is singled out and prominent, thus it really can create confusion. On the other hand, I believe that there could be a workaround for Zorik if he changes his labeling, maybe makes the word smaller, or maybe add a word, for example "Karasi Produced" or "Karasi Gini" etc. It doesn't feel good seeing this type of fight in the culture, but I think these two companies should engage in dialogue and try to work things out first before making this into a legal fight.
7. mahmouzian11:00 - 11 February, 2018
I buy karas for the reason that ERnekian has given to Armenia more that all of you the critics. Juliana said it right he has only given to Armenia. go out and buy karas wine and he will create more jobs. stop for once your stupid argument and buy karas from ernekian. abris Juliana and thank you I love your wine.
8. Ray21:47 - 11 February, 2018
Hagop I agree, this is a mess created by Armenia’s IPA. By law it should have never granted the word Karas as a protected trademark and just as earlier it refused Gharibyan later it should have refused Eurnekian and why it didn’t do that is an open question. Karas wines can’t have ‘Karas’ as a protected trademark because then no winemaker can then use the word to describe the way they make the wine without infringing. What fault do the winemakers have? If the law is not applied equally and if Eurnekian decided to make a common word and a winemaking tool its brand name he should have thought that in the long run this would inevitably create conflict. Compromise should come from his side.
9. Joseph 22:36 - 11 February, 2018
If you look at things on the surface, Eurnekian did good by investing in businesses in Armenia that create jobs, something most wealthy diasporas don't do as they simply donate to feel good about themselves. But when you are a billionaire and come to Armenia and only care to make excessive profits, no one can symphonize with Eurnekian except with his employees. If you look at Eurnekian's core businesses in Armenia, they are monopolies (airport, postal service) and provide with him above average returns. It now appears that he is unable to be competitive in the wine business in Armenia, and is resorting to what he knows best that is having a monopoly status. Instead of suing wine makers that make better wine than he does and do better in the market, he should focus on improving his wine quality and rebrand so that he doesn't monopolize a crucial wine word in Armenia "karas" that he mistakenly and illegally registered. If Eurnekian's way is the way other diasporan businessmen want to come to Armenia and invest, it's better they stay away as monopolies never do any economy good, we have already felt that on our skins with the expensive flight tickets out of Yerevan due to his airports high service fees. How Georgia can have much cheaper flight tickets compared to Armenia, and how Georgia can successfully present their wines to the world by using qveri (their karas) and writing “Qveri” proudly on their bottles should not be a mystery to anyone.
10. Հայկ23:04 - 11 February, 2018
Անունե կարաս , բայց փայտե տակարների մեջ հնեցված գինի.բա լրագրողներ չ՞հարցրին բա ուր են կարասներե,ճշմարտութինե,արդարութինե .
11. Anna15:40 - 12 February, 2018
Capitalists making profits want to look like innocent lamb is not convincing... your family's image is as flawed as their economic standing in a capitalist monopoly system. What kind of an image can we speak about when the airport is charging hell of fees due to which Armenia feels like in a blockade, we can't travel at internationally priced airfares? What kind of an image can we speak, when the businessman understands nothing of culture and as of speaking is demolishing the Zvartnots architectural monument? If eurnekian's family do not summon their minds and drop these stupid lawsuits, they risk public boycott of their products...
12. Jpb23:02 - 13 February, 2018
“I’m not against using the word karas, so long as it doesn’t create confusion“ ! like wine that is not made in armenian karas and is not even made with armenian grape varieties ?!... LMFAO
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