August 22, 2013 – The upstart New Zealand Whisky Company has been making headlines for its occasionally controversial promotions, such as the “Whisky Olympics” CEO Greg Ramsay helped organize in Michigan last year that drew the ire of the United States Olympic Committee. Now, there’s a potential lawsuit brewing over the name of Ramsay’s “Dunedin Doublewood” single malt whisky.
According to the New Zealand Herald, William Grant & Sons has turned an Auckland law firm loose on the New Zealand Whisky Company, claiming the “Dunedin Doublewood” name violates New Zealand’s Fair Trading Act of 1986 and will confuse consumers. Grant’s applied for trademark protection in New Zealand last year, but has been selling The Balvenie Doublewood expression since 1993. A “cease and desist” letter from the Simpson Grierson law firm demands that New Zealand Whisky Company stop using the word “Doublewood” on any of its products, citing the international reputation The Balvenie’s expression has developed since its launch 20 years ago.
Ramsay told the Herald that the name refers to a cask-aging process, and that his company started using the name “Doublewood” in New Zealand five years ago before Grant’s applied for trademark protection:
“We feel they don’t have grounds for a cease and desist,” said Mr Ramsay. “Their legal threat is full of bluster and heavy-handedness. “We don’t contravene their existing trademark because we were using it first, and in any case, we say there is no consumer confusion.”
Ramsay’s whisky was produced at the now-closed Willowbank Distillery in Dunedin. His company bought the remaining stocks of Willowbank whisky in 2000, and has been maturing them at its own warehouses. For more on the company’s history, listen to Mark Gillespie’s interview with Greg Ramsay in Episode 391 of WhiskyCast.
This story will be updated as more details become available.