Canada's Glen Breton loses labeling battle

A Canadian federal court has refused to register the "Glen Breton" trademark for a single malt whiskey produced in Nova Scotia.

The decision is a victory for the Scotch Whisky Association which has vigorously objected to the proposed trademark, saying the use of the word "glen," widely used on Scotches made in Scotland, would confuse and mislead consumers.

Evidence filed by the SWA included more than 30 instances of "Glen Breton" being described in Canada as "Scotch whisky" in retail stores, newspaper and magazine articles, price lists, menus and Web sites.

As I reported earlier, the SWA didn't get anywhere with Canada's Trade-Marks Opposition Board, which agreed with Glenora Distillers International Ltd. of Cape Breton when it said there would be no confusion.

The distillers claimed the use of the word "glen" is legitimate because the company is named Glenora, the community is named Glenora, it is next to a community called Glenora Falls, and coupling "glen" with "breton" is merely a legitimate combination of local place names.

In January, the Trade-Marks Opposition Board in Ottawa ruled in favor of Glenora. The SWA appealed the decision, claiming Glenora is "unfairly trading on Scotch whisky's international reputation."

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Marlon said...

The Scotch Whisky Association is a disgrace. The reality is this so-called association is no more than a cartel. They don’t own the word “Glen,” nor do they have any registered trademarks. The word “Glenora” is not similar to any Scotch whisky on the market.

Scotch Whisky is defined in the Scotch Whisky Act, which is very precise in the manner in which it describes the requirements in order to be able to call a product “Scotch.”

The first problem I see is that Glenora is Canadian and has no similarity by definiton to Scotch at all. The SWA has a standing order in all countries to object to the name “Glen” on any liquor with or without merit.

This is a process within the legal system called “boiler plating” in which they can stifle trade and restrict sales of non-Scotch whisky products including liquers .

How do they do it? Well, they have lots of money, so whether they are right or wrong they can send you out of business legally(?) and the Trademarks Act offers no protection against such malicious litigators, so they can bring on proceedings with or without merit.

This association … should stick to protecting Scotch and not restricting trade of products. … If they want the name “Glen” (they should) register it, but they can’t. “Glen” is not a geographical indicator but more a name of a person, and “Glenora” as one word could be seen to be a geographical indication of a place in Canada.

So, what was this judge thinking? So what if a few retailers advertised incorrectly? How is that Glenora’s fault? I bet the invoices of the sale of Glenora to the retailers shows Canadian whiskey, not Scotch.

I hope that Glenora fights back. They have all my support, having just gone through this here in Australia. I won, but I haven’t finished with them.

Anonymous said...

I believe that the only reason that the federal court refused to register the trademark, would be that the SWA most likely threatened to stop shipments of its products to Canada if we did not comply with its demands. Scotch whisky makes up a considerable amount of liquor sold in Canada, and if it was taken out of the equation, the government would lose out on a large amount of taxes.

Having said this, being a Canadian, and an avid consumer / fan of single malt whisky, I would have to agree with the SWA on this. It is obvious that Glen Breton attempted to establish themselves in the single malt scotch market by using a name and likeness of that of a scotch whisky. This would be the most obvious means of attracting the attention of the scotch consumer.

However, I side with the SWA in their view, because I personally feel that 1) Canadians should not be known for trying to create knockoffs of premium products, I feel they should be creating superior, unique products
2) Scotland has a group of unique high quality products, and to ride their coat-tail of success would denigrate Canadians as a whole.

This being said, I am completely for a worthy Canadian single malt. However, I am opposed to a bland unrepresentative sample of Canadian single malt potential.


Glen Breton is aged in US Bourbon Casks, and uses imported stills and malt from scotland, and imported malt from Africa. If it were truly a Canadian whisky. Everyone knows that distinct stills are part of having a distinct whisky.. why does Glen Breton use scottish stills and equipment if they have such a "Canadian" Product?