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Loch Ness Spirits seeks £30k for legal fees in ongoing trademark spat

Gin and absinthe maker Loch Ness Spirits has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise £30,000 (US$39,000) to support an ongoing legal battle over its use of the famous Scottish loch’s name.

Loch-Ness-Absinthe
Lorien and Kevin Cameron-Ross founded Loch Ness Spirits in 2015

In December last year, Inverness-based Loch Ness Spirits won a legal battle against Scotch whisky producer Duncan Taylor over its use of the name ‘Loch Ness’.

Lorien and Kevin Cameron-Ross, a doctor and retired detective, founded the Loch Ness Spirits company in 2015.

Aberdeenshire-based Duncan Taylor filed an application to invalidate six trademarks registered by Loch Ness Spirits in 2018. The Scotch whisky producer said one of the first brands it launched was called Loch Ness Whisky. However the UK Intellectual Property Office’s (IPO) decision ruled in favour of Loch Ness Spirits after UK sales of the whisky were deemed “small scale”.

It also said that Duncan Taylor “did not start selling goods to the public until July 2016, by which time applications to register four of the six contested marks had been filed”.

Earlier this week (20 January), Loch Ness Spirits launched a fundraising drive on Go Fund Me to raise money to support additional legal costs after Duncan Taylor announced its intention to appeal the decision.

A statement from the couple on the crowdfunding page said: “We were bruised and battered and relieved that our faith in the process had been rewarded. The press and public response was overwhelmingly positive and supportive towards Loch Ness Spirits.

“Over the festive season we dared to look to the future through a more optimistic lens. However, that hope has been rudely dispatched as Duncan Taylor have launched a furious demand to appeal the judgement.

“This new attack has upped the ante significantly and catapults us into another level of dispute. We are now fighting for the survival of our beloved company.”

The couple said that they “have worked hard to cover the legal fees for the last two years but with another round pending and the prospect of a QC-led [Queen’s Counsel] defence, we need your help”.

To date, the campaign has raised £2,795 (US$3,650). Any surplus funds will be donated to a local charity.

Duncan Taylor response

In response to the fundraising campaign and statement from Loch Ness Spirits, Duncan Taylor has released its own comment on the trademark dispute.

A statement from Euan Shand, chairman of Duncan Taylor Scotch Whisky, said: “We have been selling Loch Ness whisky since 2008. Our brand is important to us. It is indicative of our love of and commitment to an area where we employ approximately 20 local people.

“We are a small company that is committed to the Scottish drinks industry and passionate about bringing Scotch whisky, and part of Scotland’s heritage, to customers throughout the world.

“Our aim is for our business to thrive and for our customers to be able to trust that they can rely on Scotch whisky bearing the Loch Ness brand to originate with us.

“When we became aware of Loch Ness Spirits, and their small batch gin, our concern was to ensure the integrity of our existing Loch Ness Scotch whisky brand for the sake of our customers, our employees and the local community. However, we were also conscious of the size of both parties, and the futility of spending money on lawyers rather than our respective businesses.

“To this end, we explored a co-existence agreement with Loch Ness Spirits, which was the outcome that we believed that both sides favoured. An agreement was brokered, which we understood met the requirements of both sides. It was only when Loch Ness Spirits opposed our trademark application for Loch Ness for ‘Scotch whisky’ that we were forced to react to preserve our position.

“Any steps that we have taken have been measured and appropriate. We have used the processes and procedures set up by the UK Intellectual Property Office to attempt to resolve trademark issues when our genuine attempts to negotiate failed.

“We have refrained from making any comment on inaccurate or damaging reports on social media as we are conscious of our social responsibility and have faith in due process.”

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