Loch Ness Spirits wins trademark appeal

Duncan Taylor Scotch Whisky has lost its trademark appeal against Loch Ness Spirits over the use of the famous Scottish loch’s name.

Lorien and Kevin Cameron-Ross, a doctor and retired detective respectively, founded Loch Ness Spirits in 2015.

Duncan Taylor Scotch Whisky filed an application to invalidate six trademarks registered by Inverness-based Loch Ness Spirits on 18 November 2018. The six trademarks were: Loch Ness Gin, Loch Ness Vodka, Loch Ness Rum, Loch Ness Whisky and Loch Ness Spirits, as well as a Loch Ness Spirits logo.

Duncan Taylor argued that one of its first brands was called Loch Ness Whisky, which was launched through its subsidiary, The Original Loch Ness Whisky Company. Duncan Taylor’s chairman, Euan Shand, who is also a director of The Original Loch Ness Whisky Company, said the ‘Loch Ness’ trademark had been in “continuous use” since 2008 and was applied to goods by the sister company under an implied licence.

In the appeal decision, James Mellor QC (Queen’s Counsel) noted that evidence provided by Shand “indicates that The Original Loch Ness Whisky Company Limited filed dormant company accounts between 2009 and 2016, i.e. the years leading up to the relevant dates”.

Mellor stated: “Based on the evidence, it seems some (small) sales of Loch Ness whisky were made to traders in the UK by the applicant. But on this evidence, the applicant was effectively a wholesaler who also applied the mark on behalf of The Original Loch Ness Whisky Company.”

He added: “I find there is nothing in any of the applicant’s criticisms. Mr [Alan] James [senior hearing officer at the UK Intellectual Property Office] conducted a careful and measured review of the relevant materials. I was unable to find any error in his reasoning which would have entitled me to intervene. I agree with his reasoning and his conclusion.”

Mellor has ordered Duncan Taylor Scotch Whisky to pay Loch Ness Spirits £7,200 (around US$9,405), a combination of the award made by the hearing officer, James, and Mellor’s award in respect of the appeal.

‘Correct and just decision’

In an open letter, Loch Ness Spirits said: “After nearly three years of defending our legitimate trademarks, the appeal to have them invalidated by Duncan Taylor Scotch Whisky has been dismissed. To say this is a relief, is an understatement.

“We live on the banks of Loch Ness in an area where our family have been living for more than 500 years. At Loch Ness Spirits, we distil our products on site, using the botanicals that are picked from the land around us. We use our own pure water supply and bottle our products here too. When we launched our company, we couldn’t conceive calling it anything else. We literally are Loch Ness Spirits.

When we won the case in December 2019, we hoped that we could start looking forward again and concentrate our energies on building our company. However, our hopes were short-lived when Duncan Taylor launched an appeal. It’s been a tough year waiting for this process to play out but we can finally rest and recharge, now that the appointed person has dismissed their appeal.

“Having felt threatened, bullied and forced to defend our authentic local brand, we are heartened at this correct and just outcome. We have also been overwhelmed by the enormous support we have had locally and beyond. There are thousands of kindred Loch Ness Spirits who have backed us the whole way through. We are looking forward to continuing to craft our spirits at our home on the banks of Loch Ness, giving them the provenance that they rightly deserve.”

Duncan Taylor Scotch Whisky declined to comment.

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Author: Melita Kiely

Timothy Kelly

Tim is the Founder & Master Distiller at Felene. He developed his passion for the spirits and hospitality business while growing-up and working in his family's restaurant and liquor store business. Tim’s passion for the epicurean lifestyle has found it’s latest manifestation in the Felene Distillery. Tim is a 5-time Gold Medal Award winning Distiller. He has won a Platinum medal at the Prestigious Los Angeles Spirits Awards and his signature vodka was named Best-in-Category by the American Distilling Institute. Mr. Kelly is also a prolific author and writer and his blog is filled with ideas, discoveries, observations and recommendations to help his readers enjoy life’s simple epicurean pleasures.

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