Can you trademark an entire year? Rémy Martin certainly thinks so
Cognac giant Rémy Martin is battling Victor George Spirits in Florida over the use of the date 1738 on the latter’s Bourbon bottles.
A Bourbon product launched in June 2022 has come under fire from one of the world’s biggest spirits brands for the use of a date on its bottle.
Fort Mosé 1738 Bourbon is produced by Black-owned Victor George Spirits (VGS), based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and the whiskey is named after the first free Black town in the United States, declared so by the town’s governor in… you guessed it… 1738.
However, Rémy Martin, whose 1738 Accord Royal Cognac bears the same year on its bottle to “commemorate the reward of excellence bestowed on Rémy Martin by King Louis XV in 1738”, has raised a trademark dispute to prevent VGS from using the year on its whiskey.
Victor Harvey, founder and CEO of VGS, told the Miami New Times that he first received notice of the objection from E. Remy Martin & Co. in November 2023.
“This originally came as an utter surprise,” Harvey said. “I’m not an attorney, but I’ve never known you could trademark an entire year as part of a trademark.”
Aged for four years, and with notes of “rich cocoa, custard, cinnamon, caramels and oaty barley”, Fort Mosé 1738 Bourbon retails from US$49.99, while Remy Martin’s 1738 Accord Royal Cognac retails from £54 (US$68).
It is yet unknown whether VGS plans to fight the litigation but given that its Bourbon is, according to Harvey, the company’s “best-selling product” it seems likely that VGS will defend its right to sport the year on its bottle.
“We 100 percent chose the year 1738 because of its significance to Black people in America,” Harvey said. “It was the first year in this country where Black people could live free in some regard. That’s our sole reason for using it.”
Fort Mosé became the first town in America that allowed Black people to live free, and when VGS first launched its Bourbon it agreed to donate US$1 from every bottle sale to the Fort Mosé Historical Society to help with educational programmes and events in order to raise awareness of the historic town.
“We are excited to work with Mr. Harvey’s company to educate our youth and make sure this part of history is never forgotten,” said Charles Ellis, president of Fort Mose’ Historical Society, upon the announcement.
In 2022, Victor George secured a multi-state distribution deal in the US with Republic National Distributing Company, which saw its vodka and Bourbon brands rolled out nationwide.
“RNDC is one of those companies who is not only committed but has a clear vision for creating successful partnerships with Black owned brands, we are grateful for this opportunity,” Harvey said at the time.
The founder of VGS has vowed to become ” the largest Black-owned spirits company in the United States by 2025.”
The company is gearing up to release its Olmec Tequila range in June.