The Purple Rain Wine Controversy, Explained

An Ohio winery's best-selling product may soon become "the wine formerly known as Purple Rain." L'uva Bella winery in Lowellville, Ohio, has come under fire from Prince's estate for a trademark that the estate claims infringes on the late rock star's "most famous song, album, tour, movie, etc."

According to Food & Wine, L'uva Bella was issued a trademark in 2019 for the brand name "Purple Rain," which it uses for its sweet Concord grape red wine, although it began selling the brand in 2016.

Prince's estate began legal proceedings against the winery in the summer of 2021, hoping to have the trademark revoked. They argue that the fame of the phrase "purple rain" is directly linked to the musician and that the wine's name results in a "likelihood of confusions" and a "false suggestion of a connection" to the artist, who died in 2016 without leaving a will (via NBC).

Lawyers for Prince's estate, which is overseen by Comerica Bank, told Rolling Stone that they "have a fiduciary duty to protect the estate's intellectual property" including Prince's trademark on "Purple Rain," which was obtained in 1984 with the release of the film, soundtrack album, and title song of the same name. The album went on to receive Oscar, Grammy, and Brit awards for its soundtrack and went platinum 13 times, according to CNN Business.

L'uva Bella disputes the claim

While Prince's estate argues that the winery is unfairly profiting off the renowned musician's most successful work, L'uva Bella has claimed in a recent court filing that there can be no confusion over the brand's affiliation for an unusual reason: Prince did not drink alcohol.

"Prince was a teetotaler who despised alcohol," the winery wrote in its court filing, per Food & Wine. "The fans of Prince, knowledgeable about his beliefs and views, would never associate an alcohol containing product with the artist."

NME reports the winery also noted in the filing that "Prince never lent his name to any product or enterprise during his lifetime, and never endorsed or promoted any products, let alone any products bearing the name 'Purple Rain.'"

Despite this argument, and its reliance on wine buyers' presumed knowledge of a deceased rocker's business and drinking practices, the brand itself appears to contradict the claim in its own promotional materials. L'uva Bella's website marketing the Purple Rain brand wine describes the beverage as a "little red wine," something which could be seen as a sly reference to Prince's 1982 hit "Little Red Corvette."

Lawyers for Prince's estate requested in January that the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board retract the trademark without a trial. A decision is expected in the coming months. Meanwhile, L'uva Bella has defiantly announced it plans to continue sales of the brand and even extend the line to include sangria and rosé varieties.