Diageo Sues Sazerac over Bulleit Bourbon Trade Dress – What Do You Think?

Well, what do you think based on that picture above? It is from this complaint filed last Friday in the Southern District of New York by Diageo North America against Sazerac alleging that Sazerac’s Dr. McGillicuddy’s bottles infringe on the trade dress of Bulleit bottles and dilute that trademark protection.

The complaint asks for injunctive relief as well as damages based on the alleged dilution and trade dress infringement. Back in 2006, Diageo obtained a registration for this trade dress on its bottles claiming a first use in 1999:


The complaint alleges that up until recently, Dr. McGillicuddy’s bottles used to looked like this:


And were recently re-designed to look like this:


Claiming that this revised packaging incorporates the distinctive, non-functional combination of elements of the Bulleit design and trade dress, namely:

“(a) a clear canteen-shaped glass bottle, (b) an embossed brand name on the top two-thirds of the bottle, (c) arched text in the top line of the embossed brand name, (d) a rectangular label on the bottom one-third of the bottle, (e) the product trademark above the product designation (e.g. “ROOT BEER”) on the label, (f) a text divider with arrow and ball shapes between the product trademark and product designation on the label, (g) a border of waved lines on the top and bottom of the label, and (h) a border of waved lines around the bottle cap.”

I wanted to put this up here to see what you, our readers thought. Certainly things are shaping up to be an exciting year for Sazerac in the Southern District of New York with the Class Action Complaint filed last month (complaint is here) alleging that Old Charter’s changed labels purposefully give the misleading impression that it is an 8-year aged bourbon. You remember, they used this picture to show how the label had been changed and claiming that rather than say it was aged for 8-years, the label uses the phrase “gently matured for eight seasons”:


In any event, these are certainly two new cases to follow as they unfold over the next year as on their face, they appear to be decent examples of trade dress and false labeling litigation.

Ashley Brandt

Hi there! I’m happy you’re here. My name is Ashley Brandt and I’m an attorney in Chicago representing clients in the Food and Beverage, Advertising, Media, and Real Estate industries. A while back I kept getting calls and questions from industry professionals and attorneys looking for advice and information on a fun and unique area of law that I’m lucky enough to practice in. These calls represented a serious lack of, and need for, some answers, news, and information on the legal aspects of marketing and media. I've got this deep seeded belief that information should be readily available and that the greatest benefit from the information age is open access to knowledge... so ... this blog seemed like the best way to accomplish that. I enjoy being an attorney and it’s given me some amazing opportunities, wonderful experiences, and an appreciation and love for this work. I live in Chicago and work at an exceptional law firm, Goldstein & McClintock, with some truly brilliant people. Feel free to contact me at any time with any issues, comments, concerns… frankly, after reading this far, I hope you take the time to at least let me know what you think about the blog and how I can make it a better resource.

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