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Tiny Kiwi distiller takes on might of William Grant over trademark

By Andrew Schreiber , 20-May-2014

Tiny Kiwi distiller takes on might of William Grant over trademark

New Zealand Whisky Collection, a small Kiwi distiller, is engaged in a trademark battle with giant Scottish distiller William Grant & Sons over the use of the same compound term, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. 

Both companies are locked in a trademark battle for the term “DoubleWood.”

The Balvenie DoubleWood is bottled by William Grant & Sons, while Dunedin DoubleWood is the product of the New Zealand Whisky Collection

According to whisky terminology, DoubleWood is a term that refers to a barrel technique used during the ageing process by some whisky distillers.

The tussle seemingly dates back five generations when it was discovered that the great-great-great grandfather of Greg Ramsay, the Tasmanian-based co-owner of the Kiwi concern – and the original William Grant had actually worked together at a Scottish distillery in the 1870s.

William Grant has claimed there is potential for confusion between its own Balvenie DoubleWood and the Dunedin DoubleWood of the New Zealand Whisky Collection.

As per a statement issued by William Grant, the distiller is now working towards resolving a dispute over the use of the DoubleWood trademark.

“William Grant & Sons has used its DoubleWood trademark, which is distinctive when used in relation to alcoholic beverages, in New Zealand since 1994. This use significantly predates the New Zealand Whisky Company's comparatively recent use,” the company said in a statement.

However, Ramsay was adamant in his interview with the Sydney Morning Herald that there is no risk at all of confusion between the two whisky products.

“Our bottle has a map of New Zealand on it, prominently says 'New Zealand Whisky Collection' and has a black box. 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,” he said.

According to William Grant, the name was originally chosen by The Balvenie's “Malt Master” David Stewart, who has been with the distillery since 1962 and developed the DoubleWood variety.

“William Grant & Sons is therefore simply seeking to protect the craftsmanship, artistry and expertise associated with David's work and the goodwill and respect associated with him and the trademark,” the statement continued.

“William Grant & Sons has approached the New Zealand Whisky Company on numerous occasions in an attempt to draw the matter to a close but without response since September 2013. It will continue in its efforts to seek a solution that both parties agree on.”

Ramsay conceded William Grant & Sons began using the name first¾his firm first used it in 2006¾but says that neither company registered the name until William Grant did so just after Dunedin DoubleWood won a string of awards in international competitions.

Technically you shouldn't be able to register as a name something that refers to a common process,” he said. “We'd prefer not to go down the legal path but we'll do what we have to do to defend Dunedin DoubleWood.”

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