Whisky double trouble
A South Island distilling company is preparing to take on one of the world's Scotch whisky giants over an alleged trademark breach.
Scottish company William Grant & Sons, which produces Glenfiddich, says the New Zealand Whisky Company's Dunedin DoubleWood is breaching its Balvenie DoubleWood trademark.
New Zealand Whisky Company co-owner and chief executive Greg Ramsay said there was "absolutely no risk for confusion" over the "DoubleWood" mark.
"We never registered ‘DoubleWood', because we presumed it was a technical term of that style of whisky," he said.
The Dunedin DoubleWood bottle had a map of New Zealand on it and was "prominently" labelled as being part of the New Zealand Whisky Collection, Ramsay said.
"It could not possibly be confused with Balvenie, which has a white box, white label and to my knowledge doesn't refer to New Zealand at all.
"What I find particularly galling is that ... [William Grant & Sons] only registered their trademark after our Dunedin DoubleWood won a silver medal at the San Francisco spirits awards."
Ramsay said he met several William Grant representatives in the United Kingdom last year and while he "thought the issue had gone away" his company received another legal threat last month.
"We're very concerned, because it is a massive company, but we feel that legally they have not got a strong case.
"They have to prove there's a risk of people being misled. We're determined to uphold the rights to trade with Dunedin DoubleWood," he said.
A letter from law firm Simpson Grierson to New Zealand Whisky Company's representatives on April 11 said William Grant & Sons remained "hopeful" the companies could "reach a commercial resolution to this matter".
The letter also said William Grant & Sons was "disappointed" in the New Zealand Whisky Company's lack of co-operation so far.
"While our client ... was initially encouraged by your client's apparent preparedness to attempt to resolve this matter by agreement, it is disappointed that [it] has not progressed," it said.