Judge Rules: Drunk Moron In A Hurry Wouldn't Know Tequila From Maker's Mark

from the wax-on,-wax-off dept

After seven years in the courts, a federal judge has ruled that a dripping red wax seal can only be used by Maker's Mark bourbon. While no monetary damages were awarded, the judge issued an injunction to prevent Diageo and Casa Cuervo from using a dripping wax seal on their tequilas, specifically, their high-end tequila, Cuervo Reserva. Maker's Mark has held the trademark (pdf) on the dripping wax since the 50s; Cuervo Reservo launched with their dripping wax design in 2001, after using a non-dripping wax seal in previous years. Call me a moron in a hurry, but these tequila bottles really don't remind me of Maker's Mark one bit.

That said, the injunction won't really affect Cuervo that much right now, since they stopped the dripping wax design after 2007 in favor of a cleaner wax seal, but that might not even matter -- Maker's Mark filed a second suit in 2009, alleging that even a non-dripping bottle still infringes upon their trademark. That suit seems even more ridiculous, since wax seals are commonly used to seal not just liquors, but also anything from wine to vinegar to honey.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 4:29pm

    Wouldn't a wax seal fall under patent and not trademark? Unless it's a logo of a wax seal or something.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 4:35pm

      Re:

      I dunno. Is the old guy that invented wax seals centuries ago gonna get pissed because we're messing with his ability to create new work?

      I know I'm still trying to get my patent for the wheel processed. Sharp sticks are coming next.

       

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      Marcus Carab (profile), Apr 21st, 2010 @ 6:42pm

      Re:

      I think they are talking about a logo of a seal. But either way, if it's purely an adornment as part of the branding it is a trademark issue -- though the idea that a wax seal can be trademarked is somewhat ridiculous. \

       

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    Esahc (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 4:32pm

    I shall now go home and drink Rum.

     

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      JEDIDIAH, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 9:03pm

      Drunken rage.

      I dunno. This sort of BS makes me want to go to my favorite purveyor of strong drink and buy some of this Maker's Mark crap (never bought it before actually) just so I can have the pleasure of smashing the bottle in protest.

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2010 @ 8:36am

        Re: Drunken rage.

        Good for you, a sale is a sale. However, you might want to try the bourbon first, it's top rate!

         

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          TW Burger (profile), Apr 17th, 2010 @ 2:06pm

          Re: Re: Drunken rage.

          I usually drink Wild Turkey or Gentleman Jack. Maker's Mark is a bit overpriced.

          Back to the discussion topic... A wax seal seems a bit of a generic packaging gimmick. What's next, a judge ruling the gift wrapping counter at Sacks department store is the only one allowed to use blue ribbons?

           

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 5:11pm

    According to the article this is a non-functional wax "seal". If it were functional it would not be entitled to trademark protection, which brings up an idea: If Cuervo really wants to use wax seals on their products, make sure they actually serve a purpose.

     

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    DJ (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 5:13pm

    Monster effect...

    This has become an epidemic. Apparently Monster cable started a fad....

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Stephen, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 5:24pm

    maker's mark ambassador

    As a Maker's Mark Ambassador who frequently gets little tchotchkes from the company, even though I don't drink MM that much anymore, I'm in an admittedly conflicted situation when it comes to commenting, but I'm also perfectly placed for the same reason to say that MM doesn't just use the wax on their bottles. It's the basis for their brand's recognition, like Tiffany blue. A representation of the wax in that particular shade of red adorns all the things they put out, whether it be notecards or golf balls, so that when you see the red wax you think MM. While, it's hardly a novel idea to seal a bottle with wax, the tequila company is clearly trying to glom onto MM's high-end symbol for their own game, a symbol MM has developed over 50 years.

    And having also been part of a market research group for a rum company trying to emulate the success of high end vodka through package design, I can assure you that the bottle is as important to liquor as it is to perfume.

     

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      identicon
      Stephen, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 5:25pm

      Re: maker's mark ambassador

      "doesn't just use the wax on their bottles" as a way to seal them or as decoration, I should have added.

       

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      JEDIDIAH, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 9:10pm

      Re: maker's mark ambassador

      Nonsense.

      The liquor is what is important. The fact that you can fleece the rubes by putting substandard crap in a fancy bottle with a pretentious name isn't something you should brag about.

      You're crass and your customers are stupid and have no taste.

      A Scarlet Pimpernel wax seal is pretty irrelevant. The judge must be a total teetotaler.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2010 @ 8:35am

        Re: Re: maker's mark ambassador

        First, let me also offer the disclaimer that I'm a Maker's Mark ambassador. That said, the liquor isn't all that's important. It IS important, and that's why Maker's Mark makes it in small batches, which AREN'T substandard, unlike mega-distillers such as Jack Daniels and Jim Beam, but brand recognition is ALSO important.

        Maker's Mark has been using the dripping wax seal as part of their brand identity for over half a century. If I walked down the aisle of a liquor store, and saw another bottle whose top was similarly dipped, I'd assume there was some sort of connection with Maker's Mark, as would many people. The plain (undripping) wax seal is another matter, but it's certainly within Maker's Marks rights to let a court decide that as well (you're required to protect your trademarks, remember?). Not saying they should win that one, but that's why we have legal review.

         

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          identicon
          Any Mouse, Apr 18th, 2010 @ 9:38am

          Re: Re: Re: maker's mark ambassador

          You are required to protect your trademarks. To an extent. Trying to expand your trademark past what was applied for? Eeehnnn... I can't see that as anything other than being petty.

          As for your idea of standard and substandard, I would wager to say that Jack Daniel's is closer to the standard. Maker's Mark? Doesn't hold a candle to Glenlivet.

           

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    identicon
    teknosapien, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 5:33pm

    Wait you mean there is alcohol

    in that bottle -- that violates....
    is anyone else getting ired of this crap?

     

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    ElijahBlue (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 5:36pm

    How many great ideas are abandoned, bursts of inspiration are extinguished because of these abusive (and stupid) copyright, patent and trademark lawsuits? I've noticed recently that the most inane advertising slogans now bear a copyright or TM logo - slogans so dumb I can't even pull one from memory to post here. Some of the print ads I've seen recently are recycling common everyday sayings - capping the sentence with a copyright or TM mark.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 5:51pm

    Does anyone have any IP on putting booze in a glass container?
    'Cause I'm interested in submitting a claim on that little bugger.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 6:12pm

      Re:

      Make the wording fancy though. Like,

      "A Method of improving the enjoyment of a liquidized luxury by transferring an alcoholic beverage into a silicon dioxide container."

      Given the patent on the wheel, this might actually work.

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 6:24pm

        Re: Re:

        How about this.

        "A method of alleviating toxic overload by releasing methane into the atmosphere."

        What do you suppose that patent is for?

        See, the trick here is to confuse the unsuspecting patent examiner into thinking that what you're proposing is somehow new and innovative by using fancy words.

         

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    identicon
    abc gum, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 6:05pm

    I like tequila.

    When I am looking to purchase a bottle, I have never considered the presence (or absence) of wax.

    I look at reviews, some online, of tequila and decide that I would like to try a particular brand ... that being said, I would never think the presence (or absence) of wax would make any differnce at all.

    Maybe others think wax is a big deal ... I can not envision why.

     

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      senshikaze (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 6:18pm

      Re:

      i can.

      People are idiots.

       

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        Chargone (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 6:38pm

        Re: Re:

        the cause of, but sadly not solution to, most of the world's problems. (though not all of them)

         

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        JEDIDIAH, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 9:14pm

        Not even in the same aisle

        This is much like Apple versus Apple Records when it comes to that original trademark. You really are not going to be in a position to mistake Makers Mark for some Tequila. They just aren't going to be close enough. The close proximity of Jose Cuervo is likely to clue you in that you are not in the Burbon aisle.

        This reminds me of some Green Acres episode where some relative of Haney is the judge or the building inspector...

         

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          another mike (profile), Apr 21st, 2010 @ 4:02pm

          Re: Not even in the same aisle

          That's not the case in our grocery store. The bourbon and whisky are right across the aisle from the tequila, vodka, and gin. It's even worse at the liquor store; they're all just a few feet apart along the same wall.

           

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      identicon
      Willton, Apr 17th, 2010 @ 9:05am

      Re:

      I like tequila.

      When I am looking to purchase a bottle, I have never considered the presence (or absence) of wax.

      I look at reviews, some online, of tequila and decide that I would like to try a particular brand ... that being said, I would never think the presence (or absence) of wax would make any differnce at all.

      Maybe others think wax is a big deal ... I can not envision why.


      You don't get it. A dripping red wax seal is not an indication of quality; it is an indication that it is made by the distillers of Maker's Mark. If something is used on a bottle to indicate the quality of the liquor inside, that something would be functional, not a trademark. But when something that is used on a bottle is only done so in order to call attention to the source of the goods, then it is a trademark.

      Now, if you associate Maker's Mark with high quality liquor, then perhaps I could see why you would associate a dripping red wax seal with the same. But that is a function of the goodwill developed and imparted by the distillers of Maker's Mark, not a function of what a wax seal represents in general.

       

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        identicon
        abc gum, Apr 17th, 2010 @ 2:36pm

        Re: Re:

        Previously, I had not associated anything with red wax. But now I do. Now I associate red wax with stupidity.

        Yes, I do "get it". Possibly you did not understand.

        What I do not "get" is brand loyalty, something which several posters here including yourself seem to be engaged in.

         

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          identicon
          Willton, Apr 19th, 2010 @ 3:24pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Previously, I had not associated anything with red wax. But now I do. Now I associate red wax with stupidity.

          Yes, I do "get it". Possibly you did not understand.

          What I do not "get" is brand loyalty, something which several posters here including yourself seem to be engaged in.


          Well, then you are in the minority. Brand recognition is the reason companies use names and marks on the face of their products: it lets the consumer know who the source of the product is. And if the consumer associates a certain level of quality with such a name or mark, then the consumer will act accordingly when presented with the option of buying the product. That's the power of brand loyalty. Surely you must understand that.

          Perhaps brand loyalty is of no concern to you. That's fine. But to say that you don't "get" brand loyalty is either evident of your ignorance or indicative of your arrogance.

           

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    slander (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 8:26pm

    Maker's Mark is bottled in Kentucky. Judge John G. Heyburn II's court is in Kentucky. Diageo and Casa Cuervo are not.

    Ruling in favor of the plaintiff. Case closed.

     

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    Ian (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 9:13pm

    Trademark Issues

    The issue is not whether a moron in a hurry would confuse bourbon with tequila, the issue is whether they might see a similar marking on the tequila and think that they were made by the same company or otherwise related. I don't think it's a frivolous claim--particularly as trademarks (unless they are 'famous marks', which this wouldn't qualify as) are limited to the domain they are registered in (ie, liquors). Given that the dripping wax design was actually the most distinctive thing about the bottles, it seems sensible that it'd be covered. Also, keep in mind that the degree of similarity permitted does depend on the context in which buying decisions are made for these sorts of products--the fact that the moron might be drunk actually is relevant here. That said, I think the second suit goes too far

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2010 @ 8:45am

      Re: Trademark Issues

      Exactly! Mike seems to have missed the point on this one. If someone else put a lemon-lime drink in a trademarked coke-shaped bottle, I'm willing to bet that Coca-Cola would sue (and win), despite it being impossible to mistake coke for a lemon-lime soda. It's about brand recognition and trade dress, not mistaking one product for another, and since they're all beverages (and in this case, alcoholic beverages, an even narrower subset), a similar distinctively packaged alcoholic beverage would possibly imply a connection.

      The fact that other products have used wax seals is irrelevant, since this is a trademark, not patent, litigation.

       

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        identicon
        Willton, Apr 17th, 2010 @ 9:12am

        Re: Re: Trademark Issues

        Exactly! Mike seems to have missed the point on this one. If someone else put a lemon-lime drink in a trademarked coke-shaped bottle, I'm willing to bet that Coca-Cola would sue (and win), despite it being impossible to mistake coke for a lemon-lime soda. It's about brand recognition and trade dress, not mistaking one product for another, and since they're all beverages (and in this case, alcoholic beverages, an even narrower subset), a similar distinctively packaged alcoholic beverage would possibly imply a connection.

        The fact that other products have used wax seals is irrelevant, since this is a trademark, not patent, litigation.


        Well said. Good luck getting Mike to acknowledge that he's wrong, though.

         

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        btrussell (profile), Apr 17th, 2010 @ 2:15pm

        Re: Re: Trademark Issues

        I'd be willing to bet that coke or any other brand with recognition would use that recognition to sell new product. Not try to make it look different and hide any and all connections.

        If people can't read anything more than a wax gob...

         

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        abc gum, Apr 17th, 2010 @ 2:40pm

        Re: Re: Trademark Issues

        "Mike seems to have missed the point on this one."

        You look confused, possibly you could ask Dennis Yang about that.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2010 @ 12:54am

        Re: Re: Trademark Issues

        "If someone else put a lemon-lime drink in a trademarked coke-shaped bottle"

        That sounds like fraud.

        "It's about brand recognition"

        uhm... brand recognition. That means the ability to recognize a brand, IOW, the ability to recognize whether or not something belongs to coke.

         

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    keith (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 9:54pm

    who cares

    makers mark is not very good bourbon anyway, and their tour is subpar. pretty much anything from buffalo trace beats it hands down. so does the elijah craig (both the 12 and 18 year) from heaven hill, and then kentucky spirit and russels reserve from wild turkey. so much great bourbon to drink, why waste your money?

    ~$20 range, buy elijah craig 12 year. nothing beats it for that price.
    ~$40 kentucky spirit or elijah craig 18 year
    ~$60 william larue weller - barrel proof, unfiltered (one of the best bourbons you'll ever drink, period)
    ~$120+ pappy van winkle - 20 or 23 year old ...

    enjoy.

     

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    Just Another Moron in a Hurry (profile), Apr 19th, 2010 @ 7:15am

    Wrong Moron

    I was going to post something witty here. My username practically demands it. However, given that I'm completely sober at the moment, I don't think I'm the moron you are looking for.

     

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    lrobbo (profile), May 30th, 2012 @ 12:34pm

    Trademarking a wax seal, good stuff, there are no limits to the utter drivel these companies try to pass off, man, my head hurts

     

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