The Volokh Conspiracy

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Just in Time for National Bourbon Day (June 14), a Bourbon Trademark Case

Crafted with love in the cellars of the Sixth Circuit.


National Bourbon Day is apparently June 14; and, perhaps or perhaps not entirely coincidentally, the Sixth Circuit yesterday released a bourbon trademark law opinion, Sazerac Brands, LLC v. Peristyle, LLC. It's written by Judge Jeffrey Sutton, who was recently interviewed in these very pages about his new book, and it begins thus:

Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr., "the most remarkable man to enter the whiskey industry during the post-Civil War years," built the Old Taylor Distillery in 1887. Once the "most magnificent plant of its kind in Kentucky," the distillery fell into disrepair after the Colonel's death. Will Arvin and Wesley Murry sought to turn things around. In 2014, they formed Peristyle to purchase the property, renovate it, and eventually resume bourbon production there. Peristyle regularly referred to its location at "the Former Old Taylor Distillery" or "Old Taylor" during the renovation period.

That generated heartburn for the next player in our case, Sazerac, a company that bought the trademark rights to "Old Taylor" and "Colonel E.H. Taylor" in 2009. Sazerac objected to Peristyle's use of the Taylor name and sued Peristyle for infringement. Because Peristyle used the Old Taylor name descriptively and in good faith, it finds shelter under the Lanham Act's fair use defense. We affirm.

Read the short and pretty readable opinion for more. Thanks to How Appealing for the pointer, and InstaPundit for the information that yesterday was National Bourbon Day.

June 14, National Bourbon Day (also Flag Day), should not be confused with July 14, National Anti-Bourbon Day (in a different nation).