A tumbler of whisky without ice

Tomatin whisky companys battle for name rights ends in defeat

By James Wan

What you need to know (in a nutshell)

  1. A whisky producer, Tomatin Distillery, lost a legal bid to stop a hotel developer from using the name of a Highland village in its branding.
  2. Tomatin Distillery argued that it would be an infringement of its trademarks, but a Court of Session judge decided the public would know they were different businesses.
  3. The whisky firm has been using the village’s name in its branding since 1963, and in 2018 began using it for other products and properties.

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In a recent legal skirmish, Tomatin Distillery failed to prevent a hotel developer from employing the name of their eponymous village in its branding. The whisky producer’s owners contended that such use would infringe upon their trademarks. However, the Court of Session judge determined that the public could discern the two distinct businesses. Tomatin Distillery, an established entity, sought to defend its brand identity by acting against The Tomatin Trading Company, which aimed to capitalise on the name recognition of the Highland village. Despite the distillery owners’ efforts, the judge at Scotland’s highest court deemed that no infringement had occurred, as the marketplace distinctions between the two businesses were sufficiently clear to consumers.

Lady Wolffe, in her judgement, stated that Scotch whisky consumers were aware of the distinction between Tomatin Trading and the distillery’s products. The well-known single malt whisky producer has been utilising its village namesake for branding since 1963 and has expanded into other products and properties. Additionally, the distillery owns land near its Inverness-based facility, further solidifying its regional presence.

In 2019, Tomatin filed a trademark application with the UK Intellectual Property Office to register an emblem featuring their company name. This move was part of the distillery’s efforts to safeguard and bolster recognition of its brand identity in the market.