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BIG GINGER Trademark Dispute

Posted in Branding, Food, Infringement, Law Suits, Marketing, Trademarks

–Dan Kelly, Attorney

Twin Cities quasi-celebrity Kieran Folliard grabbed headlines this week by suing the owners of Jameson Irish Whiskey, Pernod Ricard, for trademark infringement.  Folliard is well known in the Twin Cities for founding a chain of pubs, including Cooper, Kieran’s Irish Pub, The Liffey, and The Local.  Of these, The Local serves a locally well-known drink called The Big Ginger®, which consists of whiskey and ginger ale served over ice with wedges of lemon and lime.  The Local has traditionally served The Big Ginger with Jameson, and has done so in such quantities that for five years (FY 2006 – 2011), it poured more Jameson than any other establishment in the world.  (Think about that for a minute.  Not a pub in Ireland, not Boston, not New York, not Chicago, but Minneapolis.)  Evidently we are a thirsty bunch here in Minneapolis.

Well, the friendship may be over.  Folliard has moved on to be the proprietor of his own brand of whiskey, 2 Gingers, and consequently has divested himself of pub ownership.  The Local is now making The Big Ginger with 2 Gingers whiskey and not Jameson.  Jameson allegedly offered to buy THE BIG GINGER trademark in 2009, which Folliard’s companies declined.  Fast forward to last week, when a distributor evidently spotted table tents at another local establishment (local, not Local) promoting a BIG JAMESON GINGER.  Folliard has moved quickly, filing a suit this week and moving for a temporary restraining order.  A hearing date has not yet been set.

Drink trademarks are very interesting types of trademarks because they involve tastes (quite literally) and often incorporate other branded goods.  (We’ve covered this before here.)  Of particular interest in this case is some of the evidence that Folliard’s companies have already submitted, like this presser:

How about that?  According to the proprietors themselves in 2010 (and 2009 and 2008), a Big Ginger consists of Jameson and ginger ale–a claim repeated over and over through the years and many press reports.

The initial allegations in this case do not appear to reflect well on Jameson, but that is always the case with a complaint or opening brief–it is one side of the story.  Look for this one to become really interesting on the merits.