A RENOWNED whisky distiller has won a David and Goliath battle with the maker of McEwan’s Lager after it took legal action to stop him naming a Scotch after himself.
Jim McEwan, 68, was stunned when the beer giant threatened to derail his plans for a self-titled whisky business on the Isle of Islay where he lives.
A master distiller, Mr McEwan is among the whisky world’s best-known figures and has spent 53 years working in the industry. A member of Whisky Magazine’s Hall of Fame, he has won numerous awards throughout his career.
Loading article content
Brewer Charles Wells, which owns the McEwan’s range of Scots beers, objected to Mr McEwan registering his own name as a trademark.
The brand’s trademark agents said the application overlapped with their registered trademark “McEwan’s” and people could confuse the two businesses.
They said Mr McEwan could benefit from this confusion, and called for his application to be blocked.
Now the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO), which rules on trademark disputes, has found in Mr McEwan’s favour after rejecting suggestions the two brands were likely to be mistaken for each other.
Mr McEwan said: “I am happy with the way this has worked out and hopefully that will be the end.
“I have always been a big supporter of McEwan’s beers because I have the same name and have told people they are the best in the world.”
In a written ruling, trademark hearing officer George Salthouse said: “The average consumer is well versed in discriminating between individual’s names, particularly a surname and a forename and surname.
“I accept the mark in suit may bring the opponent’s mark to mind, but I do not believe it will form a link that would affect the consumers’ economic behaviour or damage the opponents’ mark by tarnishing or blurring.”
In evidence to the IPO, Justin Phillimore, the chief executive of Charles Wells, said McEwan’s, which was founded in Edinburgh in 1856, was a well-established brand.
He cited its past sponsorship of football teams, which included Rangers.
Mr McEwan argued he could not be stopped from registering the trademark as it is his “own name”.
The brewer has been ordered to pay Mr McEwan’s £500 costs in the case.
A spokesman for Charles Wells said: “We understand Mr McEwan’s enthusiasm for his own passion, whisky, and for his promotion of all things whisky-related.
“We are aware of the trademark applications filed by Mr McEwan in relation to these activities and can confirm that in accordance with our standard practice we lodged objections to those applications.”
Mr McEwan retired as production designer and master distiller at the Bruichladdich distillery in 2015 after 15 years in the role.
Prior to that he had spent 38 years in a variety of roles at Bowmore distillery. He came out of retirement to help with production at the new Ardnahoe distillery.