SWA wins legal battles for Scotch in India

25th February, 2016 by Melita Kiely

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has been granted permanent injunctions against three Indian spirits firms that falsely referenced ‘Scotch’, ‘Scotch whisky’ and ‘Scotland’ on their labels.

Scotch-Whisky-Association-India

The SWA has won a permanent injunction against three Indian spirits producers, including Blue Patrol

The trade body filed court proceedings against Oasis Distilleries Ltd, Adie Broswon Distillers & Bottlers Pvt Ltd and Malbros International Pvt Ltd two months ago.

Three permanent injunctions were granted against each company prohibiting them from referencing Scotch or Scotland on any of their products.

The products in question were three whiskies: Royal Arms, Blue Patrol and Malbros.

In a statement published on the SWA website, Kenneth Gray, senior legal counsel at the SWA, wrote: “This court decision represents a number of legal ‘firsts’ that we have welcomed.

“This was the first action we raised using the Spirit Drinks Verification Scheme.

“It was also the first action we took under new Commercial Court rules in India. These rules were introduced at the end of 2015 and are designed to resolve court actions promptly and efficiently.”

The Spirit Drinks Verification Scheme came into effect in January 2014 to give Scotch whisky consumers “even greater reassurance” that their purchases are authentic.

India is the world’s largest spirits market, but due to the eye-wateringly high 150% import tariffs, Scotch still only comprises less than 1% of the country’s total spirits consumption.

Additional protection

Gray added: “None of the three companies described as the bottlers of these brands were listed under the Verification Scheme.

“We argued that this indicated that since at least 10 January 2015 the defendants could not have been supplied with bulk Scotch whisky for blending and bottling.

“But by September 2015 all three products were still advertised on an Oasis Group website with marketing, labelling and packaging referring to Scotch Whisky.”

As such, the SWA argued the lack of verification suggested there was no Scotch in any of the products and so the companies were in breach of Scotch Whisky’s geographical indication (GI) in India.

Furthermore, the SWA highlighted that due to the spirit’s “additional protection” under Indian GI Act, even products that did contain some Scotch could not reference the spirit on labels or in adverts for a whisky made in India.

Lastly, the group said such labelling, packaging and advertising was “misleading” and “infringed” the registered Scotch Whisky GI.

“Such decisions can only be good for Scotch in India and for consumers,” concluded Gray. “Let’s raise a dram to that.”

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