RUTLAND — In the intrastate battle of the Woodchuck beverage companies, the hard cider company won a temporary decision, but the coffee roasters lived to fight another day as the Woodchuck wars made a stop in U.S. District Court in Rutland on Monday.
Chief Judge Christina Reiss granted a motion by attorneys for Vermont Hard Cider Co., the maker of Woodchuck Cider, to dismiss a counterclaim filed by Woodchuck Coffee Roasters.
But Reiss gave the coffee roasters 45 days to refile the counterclaim with changes that would allow the complaint to move forward. The counterclaim that the judge dismissed Monday alleges deceptive trade practices and unfair methods of competition.
The counterclaim is a result of the initial suit in which the hard cider company, of Middlebury, filed a trademark complaint against the coffee roasters, a Burlington company, over the use of the name and logo, which it argued was too similar.
The companies have argued over which firm was the first to use the image of the woodchuck.
The coffee company says it was the first to use the trademark image in 2011, but the cider company argues it established a common law claim to the trademark because its licensee, Capitol Grounds Coffee, sold a “Woodchuck Blend” coffee that features an image of a groundhog holding a cup of coffee since 2006.
In court Monday, Woodchuck Coffee Roasters attorney Kathryn Kent said the initial paperwork listed a vague reference to “a licensee,” but she said it was only through her research that she was able to determine what the name of the licensee was.
In a previous response filed more than a month ago, the cider company also contends the coffee roasters hadn’t suffered any real harm because they had continued to do business as they had before the lawsuit was filed.
Attorney Paul Reidl, representing Vermont Hard Cider Company, said the coffee roasters had not suffered any real harm.
“The only harm is the fact they’ve been here defending this case,” Reidl said. “The harm is this lawsuit, that’s it.”
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