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Sazerac wins counterfeit lawsuit

Buffalo Trace owner Sazerac has won US$30,000 in damages against a company that sold counterfeit whiskey appearing to be the brand’s W L Weller.

Distributor Allocated Liquor has been ordered to pay US$30,000 in damages

Sazerac has been selling its W L Weller Bourbon for 40 years, with the line making up part of its Buffalo Trace Antique collection.

Allocated Liquor is a distribution company that resells brands of alcohol online.

On 18 November 2022, upon discovering the sale of its Weller line by Allocated Liquor, Sazerac filed action against Allocated Liquor citing trade infringement, counterfeiting, false designation of origin, and unfair competition. A cease-and-desist letter was sent to the distributor, and Allocated’s owner claimed it purchased the Bourbons from a seller on online marketplace Etsy.

Allocated was not authorised to sell Sazerac’s Weller Bourbon brand. Then last year, it was discovered selling miniature bottle gifts sets of the brand, which Sazerac itself has never produced or sold.

Sazerac alleged that the miniature Bourbons Allocated offered for sale were ‘nearly identical imitations of genuine Weller branded products sold by Sazerac’, bearing ‘exact copies of the Weller marks’.

Sazerac also submitted evidence that its customers were ‘actually confused’ by Allocated’s counterfeits, as a customer contacted Sazerac seeking to purchase ‘additional Weller miniature bottles’.

Allocated admitted to offering for sale at least 10 counterfeit Weller-branded Bourbon gift sets for US$299.99 each, and to selling at least seven of the sets, totalling a profit of ‘at least’ US$2,099.93 through counterfeit sales.

The case was made that Etsy is not a lawful distributor of alcoholic beverages and prohibits the sale of alcohol on its site.

As such, Allocated ‘knew its prohibited purchase of alcohol from Etsy could not be from an authorised seller of Weller-branded Bourbons’, the lawsuit claimed.

In addition, Allocated was found to be selling Weller-branded Bourbons at a ‘premium price’, suggesting that Allocated knew the value of the Weller brand and intentionally offered the counterfeit products to obtain a comparable premium profit, Judge Otis D Wright II heard.

Following the cease-and-desist action, Allocated then removed all Weller products from its website and stopped selling other Sazerac products.

Sazerac sought statutory damages of between US$20,000 and US$100,000 per counterfeit mark, for a total between US$40,000 and US$200,000, to compensate Sazerac’s ‘lost profits, punish Allocated’s wilful infringing conduct, and deter future infringing activity’.

A spokesperson for Sazerac commented: “We are pleased with the court’s ruling and believe it vindicates our efforts to combat fraudsters. We will always act to safeguard our consumers and our brands by going after those that engage in illegal and potentially dangerous counterfeit activities.”

Allocated Liquor was found liable on 3 July.

The Spirits Business has reached out to Sazerac and Allocated Liquor for comments.

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