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William Grant faces legal case over Sailor Jerry brand

The widow of the tattooist that inspired the ‘Sailor Jerry’ rum brand is bringing legal action against William Grant & Sons over use of the name although a meeting between the two parties has been arranged.

Louise Collins, widow of Norman ‘Sailor Jerry’ Collins, has accused the Scotch whisky maker of “obscene” and “ill gotten” gains from the brand which, she says, was created without permission to use her late husband’s name or artwork.

According to The Times, Louise Collins (now 83) says Norman never drank and would have disapproved of his name and art being associated with an alcohol brand.

“I am appalled to see what these folks have done with Jerry’s name and legacy. This was my husband, the father of my children, and no one ever even asked our family for permission to use him in this way.”

She is understood to be seeking substantial damages worth several million pounds.

A lawyer for the family said that the Sailor Jerry name had been “illegally co-opted”. He continued: “Hawaiian law requires when you use those attributes of a person’s personality for commercial purposes, you need permission from that person or from the heirs of that person. William Grant and Sons has not done so.”

But although William Grant is the brand’s owner today, it did not create the brand in the first place.

The rum actually evolved out of a ‘Sailor Jerry’ clothing line which came about following Norman Collins’ death in 1973.

The rum brand appeared in 1999 and was bought by William Grant in 2008. The Scottish company has since turned the brand into one of the most successful spiced rums in the world, with global sales now in excess of one million nine-litre cases a year.

William Grant insists it bought the brand in “good faith”.

In a statement, William Grant said: “William Grant & Sons is pleased to announce that its invitation to meet Mrs. Louise Collins and her immediate family has been accepted, and planning is underway for the meeting to go ahead in Hawaii later this week.

“When claims on behalf of the Collins’ family were brought to our attention last week, our first action was to propose a meeting to fully understand their concerns and needs.

“The aim of this meeting is to establish a joint approach to ensure that Norman ‘Sailor Jerry’ Collins’ legacy is protected and celebrated. This is a legacy and a brand that was developed and protected by multiple owners before William Grant & Sons acquired the brand in 2008.

“While we are not able to comment on any pending litigation, William Grant & Sons has and always will hold Norman Collins’ legacy in the highest regard. We have enormous respect for the family of Norman Collins and have no desire to cause upset. Until further notice, we have no further comments on the matter.”

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