Friday, May 11, 2012
A Weird But Cool Career Milestone.
Although I generally don't practice, I am a lawyer, so it is both weird and cool for me to be cited in a Federal Appellate Court opinion, the Sixth Circuit's ruling in Maker's Mark v Diageo, a trademarks case.
It begins with Justice Hugo Black's famous statement (written in dissent) that, “I was brought up to believe that Scotch whisky would need a tax preference to survive in competition with Kentucky bourbon.” Justice Black grew up in Alabama.
After that there are several pages of American whiskey history, which is where I come in. It's easy to read, not at all legalistic, and very accurate. The legal point of it is that issues of brand identity and product integrity are of unique importance to whiskey producers due to events in the industry's history, and past Federal involvement going back more than 100 years to the Pure Food and Drug Act and subsequent Taft Decision.
The rest of this decision, where they get into the fine points of trademarks law and some of the specific claims and counterclaims of the case, gets pretty dense. It's hard slogging for a lawyer let alone a layperson. If, however, you are tempted to spout off about how "ridiculous" the decision is, force yourself to actually read and understand the opinion before you do. Trademarks law can be very complicated precisely because the courts go to great lengths to provide appropriate protection to intellectual property owners without overreaching.
The case involved the Maker's Mark red wax drip and a Diageo Jose Cuervo brand tequila that Maker's felt infringed. The trial court found for Maker's and the appellate court affirmed that decision.
The United States courts of appeals (or circuit courts) are the intermediate appellate courts in the United States federal court system. There are 13 of them. The Sixth Circuit covers Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, and Tennessee. It is located in Cincinnati.