By Lynne Olver
TORONTO, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Canada’s only single-malt whisky distillery is free to keep selling its Glen Breton Rare whisky after Canadian trademark authorities struck down a complaint that the name was deceptively Scottish. The Edinburgh-based Scotch Whisky Association had objected to use of the word “glen,” saying that Glenora Distillers International Ltd., based in Glenville, Nova Scotia, was misleading consumers into thinking the 10-year-old Canadian single malt was actually from Scotland.
In legal parlance, the 57-member association claimed the name was “deceptively misdescriptive,” as Canadian whisky drinkers would assume it was the Scottish variety.
But David Martin, the member of Canada’s Trade-Marks Opposition Board who threw out the complaint this month, ruled that “standard dictionary definitions indicate that the word glen has universal application.” He also noted that the Scotch Whisky Association presented no evidence from consumers that might indicate confusion.
“This appears to be a case of overreaching by the opponent,” Martin wrote.
A Canadian lawyer acting for the Scottish distillers, whose brands include Glen Deveron, Glenfarclas, Glenfiddich, Glenlivet and Glenmorangie, said the group will appeal.
Lauchie MacLean, president of Glenora Distillers, said that in the rural Cape Breton region of Nova Scotia, dozens of place names also contain “glen,” referring to a valley at the base of a mountain range.
“We didn’t call it Glen for any other reason than geography, we’re in a glen, and Breton because we’re (on) Cape Breton Island,” MacLean told Reuters.
Cape Breton prides itself on its Gaelic roots, and plays up the culture and traditional music. MacLean’s own ancestors came to “New Scotland” two centuries ago from the Hebridean Isle of Barra.
Glenora Distillery does not call its product a Scotch, although the packaging for Glen Breton, which sells for almost C$90 ($75) a bottle in Toronto, brags about its Scottish style.
“We very plainly on our packaging say it’s Canadian Single Malt Whisky and we have a red Canadian maple leaf on our labels and on our boxes,” MacLean said.
Glenora produces just 25,000 to 35,000 bottles of Glen Breton Rare a year, described as having a butterscotch, heather, honey and ground ginger nose and the “merest whisper of peat” on the finish.
Meanwhile, the Scotch Whisky Association cited export data that showed 11 million bottles of Scotch blended and single-malt whisky was shipped to Canada in 2002.
“We’re so small, we wouldn’t even register on their international sales figures as being any kind of threat,” MacLean said. He figures the Scottish association is concerned that a Canadian trademark precedent could hurt their multi-billion dollar industry elsewhere.
“They’ve also taken exception to other whiskies that have had glen-something-or-other in their name,” MacLean said.
Glenora first applied for the Glen Breton trademark in 2000. The Scotch Whisky Association objected in 2003, and a court appeal could extend the fight for several more years.
The Canadian distillery had been cautious about spending money on marketing, but now that the Glen Breton name has been declared valid, Glenora will review its marketing plans, MacLean said.
Despite the likely appeal, “we’re going to continue business without anything hanging over our heads.”
In December, Wine Enthusiast magazine named Glen Breton one of the top 50 spirits in the world, MacLean said, sparking interest from Europe and Asia. He is confident that Glen Breton will become available in more U.S. states this year, and said it would be “great” to have Scottish retailers carry his product.
((Reporting by Lynne Olver; editing by Janet Guttsman; Reuters Messaging: firstname.lastname@example.org; 416-941-8099)) Keywords: WHISKY CANADA/
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