By Andrew Starke
Beam Global Spirits & Wine has won a lawsuit against Diageo to protect the copyright of the red wax seal used on bottles of Maker's Mark Bourbon, with a judge declaring the trademark exclusive legal property.
The judgment ends a seven-year legal battle between Fortune Brands, owner of Beam Global and the Maker’s Mark brand, and Diageo North America, which distributes Jose Cuervo International products into the United States.
Cuervo had used a dripping red wax seal on special bottles of its Reserva tequila, Casa Cuervo, which was distributed by Diageo.
However, Judge John G. Heyburn found that consumers and others might be confused about the origin of Cuervo products bearing a device similar to the iconic red wax seal of Maker’s Mark, despite the Cuervo product in question being a tequila, while Maker's Mark is a Bourbon whisky.
The judge added that the red wax seal is an ‘extremely strong mark’ associated with Maker’s Mark Bourbon.
Beam Australia said it would not comment on the judgment locally and referred TheShout to a statement issued in the US.
“We’re very pleased that a Federal court has ruled that our unique trade dress and bottle design are proprietary to Maker’s Mark and off limits to our competitors,” said Maker’s Mark president, Bill Samuels.
“Maker’s Mark is unique in many ways, starting first and foremost with our recipe and ending with our iconic red neck coating. We hand dip and personalize every Maker’s Mark bottle … this has been our signature trademark since my mom dipped our very first bottle and always will be. We were confident this would be the outcome, and the formal result is very gratifying.”
The Samuels family, which created Maker’s Mark in 1958, trademarked the distinctive seal, which serves only a decorative purpose.
Cuervo began using a dripping wax seal on bottles in 1997 to try to create an artisan look.
Diageo said it had voluntarily ceased using the wax seal over six years ago, adding in a statement that neither it nor Cuervo had been found liable for monetary damages.
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