Irish Whiskey Wins Australian Trademark Case

Author(s): Ken Philp
Publish Date: February, 2011

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MOST palates can tell bourbon and Irish whiskey are birds of a different feather — and now a Federal Court has found there is no confusion.

Irish whiskey Wild Geese has won the right to continue using its trademark in Australia, winning a court battle against the bourbon Wild Turkey, who had taken a case claiming that brand names were too alike.

Campari, which purchased the Wild Turkey brand from Pernod Ricard in 2009, lost its first claim at the trademark office and subsequently appeal the decision at Federal Court level.

Brisbane-based trademark lawyer Ken Philp represented the small Irish whiskey.

Wild Turkey’s argument was ‘pretty skimpy’, Philp told the Echo.

The Wild Turkey brand ame has been registered in Australia since 2002 and Campari argued that it has not been used since.

“It’s a highly technical legal ground, the non-use removal application, and it avoids having to argue about confusion.

“One of the grounds that the judge can refuse the applicatioin is purely discretionary … [The judge can say] ‘look what’s the risk? What’s the harm to the trademark register?’ One of the things he can look at is whether this causes any confusion. And Wild Turkey couldn’t produce any evidence of confusion,” said Philp.

Wild Turkey have until the end of the month to apply for leave to appeal the Federal Court’s decision.

Essentially, the win means that the Irish whiskey can now increase its commercial activities in Australia.

“What it means is that it’s got its trademark confirmed so it can keep going with all the advertising for Wild Geese and whatever goodwill they have built up with that name. And it’s a good name too because it’s synonymous with Ireland,” says Philp.

Wild Geese is contesting trademark claims against Wild Turkey in courts around the world. The trademark disputes are currently before courts in America and Europe.

Philp has sipped just ‘a little bit’ of the whiskey.

“I’m not really a whiskey drinker. I’ve read a lot of the tasting notes and it is good. Apparently it’s a pretty good whiskey,” he said.

The whiskey’s name refers to the Irish Jacobite soldiers that left to join the French military service after King James had been defeated in the 17th century.

The term Wild Geese has since been used to reference any Irish soldiers that left the country to fight in overseas armies in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

Wild Geese is by owned Lodestar Anstalt, a company incorporated in Liechtenstein. The company secured a new Australian distributor in 2008.


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