Battle of the 'glen' continues in Canada

A whisky label controversy has turned into a Scotland vs. Canada legal wrangle.

Even though the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) lost a protracted legal battle to stop a small Nova Scotia distillery from selling its Glen Breton brand single malt, it now has asked the Supreme Court of Canada for permission to appeal a lower court ruling that allows Glenora Distillers to use the Glen Breton name.

Glenora vice president Bob Scott said in a release that it was disappointing to think that a trademark battle that began nine years ago will continue.

"Glenora has, by its perseverance in craft distilling and the quality of its single malt, now earned a respected position in the world. We believe that the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal was correct in approving the registration of Glen Breton as our trademark, and it must be defended."

The SWA has a long record of protectionism of Scotch whiskies and anything that might adversely affect them anywhere in the world.

It has been arguing that use of the word "Glen" might lead consumers to believe the whisky is distilled and matured in Scotland even though the label clearly says the whisky is a Canadian product and even carries a maple leaf, the Canadian symbol.

Glenora plans to battle the appeal and has filed a formal response with the Supreme Court.

The SWA's appeal was no surprise. As David Williamson of the SWA told me back in February when the lower court ruled in favor of Glen Breton, “We find it surprising that the court has allowed this confusion to be perpetuated, and we are considering an appeal."

You can read my coverage of the battle in chronological order:

• Tempest in a glen
• Canadians backing Glen Breton with dollars
• Scotland vs. Cape Breton, Round 2
• Canada's Glen Breton loses labeling battle
• Glen Breton wins another court round
• SWA not giving up on Glen Breton

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Davin de Kergommeaux said...

What can the SWA be thinking? Glen Breton, an obscure, but quite drinkable single malt from a tiny, isolated Canadian distillery might well have died its natural death by now had David-and-Goliath legal problems not kept it in the news, not just in Canada, where ex-pat Cape Bretoners can be expected to keep a bottle at hand, but right around the whisky world. If I ever start a distillery you can be sure my whisky will be called Glen something. You can't buy that kind of publicity.

Richard Beach said...

I must disagree with Davin. The SWA is, by virtue of what it does, fairly well obligated to take on cases such as this, since it is assuredly funded by the Scots distillers and looks after their interests.

While I, as a fairly well educated person with respect to whisky (whiskey in other forms), am not likely to be confused by the name, others might be reasonably assumed to not reasonably know the difference.

Products made by the Glenora Distillery in Cape Breton are not likely to be confused with products made by the Glenora winery in the Finger Lakes, however, the whiskies might be.

Mark Connelly said...

Utterly ridiculous and a complete waste of money and resources that could be better spent.

Mark Connelly said...

Richard, I think the word "Canada" on the packaging and the maple leaf might be a giveaway.