Scotch wins Chinese trademark battle

A Chinese court has handed an injunction to a company that was illegally labelling bottles of whisky as Scotch, which could set a legal precedent to protect the term.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon recently launched a new Scotch centre in Beijing (Photo: Whisky)

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon recently launched a new Scotch centre in Beijing (Photo: Whisky)

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) took out a lawsuit against Anhui Guangyu Packaging Technology Company, which was found to be illegally imprinting the caps of bottles of whisky as “Scotch Whisky”.

Announcing the court victory, Lindesay Low, SWA senior legal counsel, said that it is “significant for a number of reasons and should be seen as a legal breakthrough. We are confident this will help deter other potential counterfeiters and fraudsters in China.”

The international aspect of the case, the first to be concluded in the Chinese civil courts for the SWA, could also set a precedent, the trade body said.

The case involved the SWA disrupting a cross-border supply chain, as the whisky in question was produced for sale 1,000 miles away in Myanmar (Burma). Previously, the Association has only taken action against products manufactured and sold in China.

Significantly for the SWA, this was the first case where it has successfully taken action against a manufacturer of packaging, as normally its lawsuits are concerned with the contents of the bottle.

In this instance the SWA convinced the court that the caps were to be used illegally, although no complete bottles were discovered. The SWA says this is helpful as more manufacturers of fake spirits split the production process between different locations to reduce the chance of being caught.

Mr Low said that there is also a possible criminal case against the director of Annhui Packaging Technology Company, and “discussions are ongoing with the public prosecutor.”

The lawsuit, which was heard at Anqing Intermediate People’s Court in eastern China, resulted in an injunction ordering Guangyu to stop infringement of the Scotch trademark and pay damages and costs.

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