Heaven Hill Distillery Knocks On Bob Dylan's Door Over His Heaven's Door Whiskey For Trademark Infringement

from the drunk-in-a-hurry dept

Trademark disputes in the alcohol industries are often times absurd enough to make the comments section question whether everyone involved was simply drunk. While I'm sure the lawyers on all sides tend to be sober, every once in a while you read a claim in a big-boy legal document that makes you pause and wonder. And, then, sometimes the dispute centers around a public figure punning off his own notoriety, making the trademark claims extra ludicrous.

Meet Bob Dylan. Bob used to be a counterculture folksinger hero that eschewed the trappings of materialism and sang as one of the original social justice warriors. Present day Bob sings songs on car commercials and owns a Whiskey brand. And, hey, Bob's allowed to make money, no matter how jarring this might be to those born decades ago. His Heaven's Door Whiskey is, sigh, allowed to exist. It's also allowed to fight back against the absurd trademark lawsuit brought by Heaven's Hill Distillery over its logo and trade dress.

Heaven Hill Distillery has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Heaven’s Door Spirits, a whiskey line co-owned by Dylan that was released earlier this year. The company's name is a reference to Dylan’s 1973 song Knockin' on Heaven’s Door.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Louisville, argues that the Bardstown-based company was founded by the Shapira family shortly after prohibition ended in the 1930s and has used the trademark for more than 80 years. A Heaven Hill attorney sent a cease-and-desist letter to Chicago-based Heaven’s Door in April, saying the start-up distillery’s use of its trademark “will create a likelihood of confusion” with the Kentucky bourbon brand's products. The letter specifically notes that Heaven's Door has introduced a “stacked" logo similar to the one used by Heaven Hill.

Dylan's company responded saying it didn't believe there would be any public confusion over the logos and trade dress and that it wasn't going to be making any of the changes requested. When it comes to these disputes, it's useful to actually put the entire products next to one another to see how similar they are. Simple logos can sometimes be squinted at and seen as similar, but on the question of confusion in the marketplace you really have to put the products side by side and imagine yourself in a store trying to decide between the two. I've done that for you below.

It's frankly hard to imagine how anyone is going to be confused between these two liquor brands. The bottle shape is different. The label placement is different. The fonts aren't the same and neither are the color schemes for the labels. Even the logos themselves aren't particularly similar, stacked or otherwise. And, of course, there is the mockup of the ironwork sculpting on Dylan's bottle, modeled after his own iron sculpting artwork. Even the name of the brand is a reference to Dylan. How any of this adds up to market confusion is beyond me.

And, yet, Heaven Hill essentially wants to scuttle Dylan's whiskey business altogether.

The lawsuit is asking a judge to grant a temporary injunction prohibiting Heaven’s Door from producing, distributing or marketing until the lawsuit is concluded. In addition, attorneys for Heaven Hill want a judge to force Heaven’s Door to “deliver up for destruction or other disposition all goods, packaging, containers, advertisements, promotions, signs, displays” with their company name.The suit is also seeking unspecified monetary damages.

Somehow, despite this suit, I would guess that Dylan's whiskey will continue to be released.


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  • icon
    Mononymous Tim (profile), 21 Aug 2018 @ 8:05pm

    Not even a drunk moron in a hurry.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 21 Aug 2018 @ 8:36pm

    Aw, hell!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 21 Aug 2018 @ 9:38pm

    First stout, now whiskey—what’s next for alcoholic trademark battles, sex on the beach?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Aug 2018 @ 9:52pm

    Mistakenly attached a document that is obviously unrelated to this article.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Aug 2018 @ 12:14am

    If i exclusively looked at the names i could see some confusion.

    But it ends once you have the bottles next to each other.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 22 Aug 2018 @ 1:08am

    Legitimate cause for confusion.

    If you poured me a shot of each brand, I should think that they look confusingly similar. Probably also good for a cease and desist against diesel oil. Not only does it look the same but it's also the product of destillation and is sold in barrels, a clear trade dress violation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Aug 2018 @ 6:35am

      Re: Legitimate cause for confusion.

      You should definitely try that again, but focus on the taste differences.

      Can't taste the difference? Barkeep! Another round!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Aug 2018 @ 3:53pm

      Re: Legitimate cause for confusion.

      One of these brands will get you falling down drunk off a hill and the other will literally put you out of your wits at heaven's door.. what confusion?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Aug 2018 @ 3:38am

    Am I the only one thinking that people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones? That Heaven Hill bottle looks very similar to Jack Daniels...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 22 Aug 2018 @ 4:04am

    Hitting the wrong bar

    They both use glass bottles, text, and colors on the label, what more could you possibly need to demonstrate a very real possibility that someone would mistake one brand for the other?

    It would be nice if bringing cases this stupid was enough to get the lawyers involved in trouble, but I suppose if you punished lawyers for doing stupid things they wouldn't be able to rack up as many billable hours, and can't have that now can we?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Aug 2018 @ 4:05am

    Judge, take this trademark from me
    I can't use it anymore
    Nobody's confusing, confusing our whiskey
    Feels like a nuisance suit to heaven's door

    Nuis-nuis-nuisance to heaven's door
    Nuis-nuis-nuisance to heaven's door
    Nuis-nuis-nuisance to heaven's door
    Nuis-nuis-nuisance to heaven's door

    Judge put my trademarks in the ground
    I can't sue with them anymore
    A trademark cancellation is comin' down
    Feels like a nuisance to heaven's door

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Capt ICE Enforcer, 22 Aug 2018 @ 4:50am

    I see it

    What. You can't see the confusing similarities. Let me give you a hint. All these products are in bottles. Boom. Law school here I come.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 22 Aug 2018 @ 8:49am

    Trademark disputes in the alcohol industries are often times absurd enough to make the comments section question whether everyone involved was simply drunk.

    As I've said before in response to similar articles, it's hardly news that alcohol makes people behave like idiots.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Aug 2018 @ 6:13pm

      Re:

      I hate arguing with a drunk especially when they're smashed on whiskey. I wonder if everyone will be drinking in the courtroom. That would suck. But, then again maybe everyone will just stagger away!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Aug 2018 @ 8:59am

    Heaven Hill sucks. Any association with something that doesn't suck is a good thing for them..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 22 Aug 2018 @ 1:36pm

      Re:

      I foresee a strategic partnership with "Microsoft vacuum cleaners".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Aug 2018 @ 6:23pm

      Re:

      Maybe the other brand owners want some free publicity associating to Mr. Dylan. Any publicity is good publicity. Maybe they've been enjoying their product a little too much! In the end maybe combine products, add a little rice to the mix and call it Heaven's Sake!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Coyoty (profile), 22 Aug 2018 @ 7:46pm

    It is green.

    I think Heaven Hill is more interested in the appearance of Dylan's money than of his whiskey.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 22 Aug 2018 @ 10:52pm

    Dylan anticipated defeat

    "Mama, take this badge off of me, I can't use it anymore.": if that is not the voice of a man losing a trademark suit, I don't know what is.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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