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SWA takes German single malt to court over ‘Glen’ title

Lawmakers are in the process of deciding whether a German whisky infringes on the geographical indication of Scotch whisky with the use of the word ‘Glen’ in its title.

Does the word ‘glen’ make consumers think of Scotch whisky?

German single malt brand Glen Buchenbach is produced by a distillery in Berglen and indicates that it is a German product on its label.

However, trade body the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has argued that the product could confuse consumers and “mislead them as to the true origin of the whisky”.

The SWA took legal action against Glen Buchenbach through Hamburg’s regional court, which subsequently asked the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to “interpret” the GI.

The ECJ did not make a ruling on the case, but offered a number of observations.

It said that for the GI to be breached, the word ‘Glen’ must evoke more than associations with Scotland, and cause consumers to think of Scotch whisky specifically.

The court also stated that Glen Buchenbach’s label identifying it as a product of Germany does not prevent the whisky from breaching Scotch whisky’s GI.

However, the ECJ ruled that Germany’s national court should determine “whether an average European consumer thinks directly of the protected geographical indication ‘Scotch Whisky’ when he is confronted with a comparable product bearing the designation ‘Glen’”.

The case is on-going.

The Scotch Whisky Association faces hundreds of trademark battles around the world. Earlier this year, the group secured a renewal of Scotch whisky’s trademark in China for another 10 years.

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