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Hollywood director sues Heaven Hill Distilleries

A Hollywood filmmaker has filed a lawsuit against Kentucky-based Bourbon maker Heaven Hill Distilleries over trademark rights for his planned whiskey venture.

Brett-Ratner-Hilhaven-whiskey
Director Brett Ratner has filed a trademark lawsuit against Heaven Hill Distilleries

According to reports by Law 360, X-Men director Brett Ratner filed the lawsuit against the Kentucky Bourbon firm at California federal court on Thursday, alleging the firm is trying to block his plans to license the name of his Hilhaven Lodge mansion for a range of Diageo whiskey.

Heaven Hill Distilleries has reportedly sent numerous cease-and-desist letters to Ratner, warning the use of the name Hilhaven on his whiskey would be “much too similar” and the company would take “all necessary actions, legal and otherwise, to protect and enforce its rights”.

Ratner argued, though, that consumers would simply associate the Hilhaven brand with the well-known mansion and Hollywood parties it has become famous for hosting.

His complaint said: “Plaintiff therefore brings this lawsuit in order to remove the cloud cast over plaintiff’s marks and brand by defendant’s allegations of infringement, so that plaintiff can proceed with his plans to develop and launch the brand and the branded whiskey product.”

Furthermore, the director also highlighted that Heaven Hill lost its right to stop the Hilhaven whiskey brand by not opposing the initiative at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board when it was able to in 2012, and argued the firm only became concerned when Diageo got involved.

He continued to accuse the distillery of having a “history of actively filing oppositions” and that the decision not to do so in 2012 formed “a strong inference the defendant knew of plaintiff’s marks as early as 2012, and decided not to challenge them, because defendant concluded that they were not infringing”.

Ratner is seeking declaratory judgement that his Hilhaven brand will not infringe Heaven Hill’s rights as a matter of trademark law, in addition to a ruling that the firm’s claims would be banned due to their initial acceptance and delay in bringing their claims forwards.

The Spirits Business has contacted Heaven Hill Distilleries for a comment and is awaiting a response.

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