Perth-based wine company Masstengo – famous for its Purple Reign wine – is being sued by the estate of dead rock star Prince and Coca Cola.
Prince, who died in 2016, was famous for the hit song, Purple Rain.
The world’s first naturally purple wine, Purple Reign was released to the domestic market in 2019.
It quickly met demands exceeding 300,000 bottles in Japan, Hong Kong, USA, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore.
“Mid 2020, at the height of Covid, Purple Reign went viral on social media in Hong Kong and Taiwan,” Purple Reign co-director Tim Macnamara says.
“Consumption went crazy with inquiries from overseas, we did a special collab with a professional sports club in Japan and in Australia the shelves were being stripped by Daigou buyers – we were struggling to meet demand from Asia and couldn’t believe our great luck as a boutique Aussie producer.”
Masstengo anticipated readying their intellectual property for the USA, Europe and UK.
It is at that point they landed on the radar of Coco Cola and the estate of artist Prince, finding themselves engaged in legal proceedings with the two giants.
“The estate of Prince claimed that our wine would become too successful and would dilute the artistic value of the song and movie Purple Rain,” Macnamara says.
“We then received an objection from a little-known American energy supplement for body builders called Reign Energy Drinks, who we found was owned by Monster Energy Drinks, whose parent company is Coca Cola.”
Masstengo says it does not have the deep pockets of its opponents.
“Legally Coca Cola have a weak claim to the word reign in relation to wine and our legal team in Australia and the US have advised us that we would likely win the case against Prince,” Macnamara says.
“However the cost to see it through is crippling for a small business, and perhaps our best case is to try and negotiate but the legal financial toll of that alone could see us go under in an unfair fight.
“As the underdog, we feel as though our only hope is making our case more high profile in the public realm and try to get people in our corner before the big corporations going after us succeed in running us into the ground.
“Let’s hope when the dust settles on the legal challenges ahead for Masstengo, Purple Reign won’t be ‘The Wine Formerly Known As’.”
The eye-catching purple shade of the wine that has made it so popular comes from natural antioxidants known as anthocyanins – similar to those found in blueberries, purple carrots and cabbages.
Masstengo uses such additives to minimise use of sulphur as a preservative, which is the usual antioxidant used in wine.
“We have found through our distributors that our wine does not trigger allergies and asthma, which is also one of the reasons it is gaining popularity,” co-director Ross Stewart says.
“It is also linked to a reduced hangover, which is obviously a popular angle with drinkers.”