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German whisky’s use of ‘Glen’ deemed ‘misleading’

A court has ruled that a German whisky has breached the geographical indication (GI) of Scotch whisky by using the word ‘Glen’ in its name.

Scotch whisky WSR
The SWA has won its latest legal battle to protect Scotch whisky’s GI

German single malt whisky brand Glen Buchenbach is made by a distillery in Berglen and states it is a German product on its label.

However, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) argued the product could confuse consumers and “mislead them as to the true origin of the whisky” due to the Scottish connotation of the word ‘Glen’.

In June 2018, the SWA took legal action against Glen Buchenbach through Hamburg’s regional court, which asked the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to “interpret” the GI.

While the ECJ did not rule on the case, it did offer guidance to assess whether the German distiller had breached EU laws on protected GI statuses.

The ECJ stated that for the GI to have been breached, the word ‘Glen’ must conjure more than associations with Scotland – it must make consumers think of Scotch whisky specifically.

Furthermore, the ECJ ruled that Germany’s national court should decide “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 decision was made this week by the Hamburg court that the use of the word ‘Glen’ on a German whisky could be misleading for consumers.

Alan Park, SWA director of legal affairs, said: “The SWA has consistently taken action in our global markets to prevent the use of Scottish indications of origin on whisky which is not Scotch whisky.

“This is vital to protecting Scotland’s national drink and is a deterrent to those who seek to take advantage of the quality reputation of Scotch whisky and potentially mislead consumers.

“Courts across many jurisdictions have ruled that names, such as ‘Highland’ and ‘Glen’, and images, such as bagpipers, are so strongly associated with Scotland and Scotch whisky that their use on whisky of another origin is misleading.

“Our case against Glen Buchenbach presented clear and compelling evidence to the court that ‘Glen’ is strongly associated with Scotland and Scotch whisky, and the only reason to use ‘Glen’ for a German whisky is because of its undoubted association with Scotch whisky.

“We are pleased with the court’s decision that the use of Glen on a German whisky is misleading.”

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