Britain’s Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has hailed a recent ruling in India against the use of the terms ‘Scotch’ and ‘Scotland’ by Indian liquor firms.
The SWA with a base in Edinburgh and London and set up to advance the global interests of Scotch whisky, had filed court proceedings against Oasis Distilleries Ltd, Adie Broswon Distillers & Bottlers Pvt Ltd and Malbros International Pvt Ltd in India last December.
India’s Commercial Court granted three permanent injunctions against each company prohibiting them from referencing ‘Scotch’ or ‘Scotland’ on any of their products - Royal Arms, Blue Patrol and Malbros.
In a statement, SWA’s Kenneth Gray said, “The industry is toasting a number of legal breakthroughs following recent court success in India to protect Scotland’s national drink.
“This court decision represents a number of legal firsts that we have welcomed. This was the first action we raised using the Spirit Drinks Verification Scheme. It was also the first action we took under new Commercial Court rules in India,” he said.
India is one of the world’s largest spirits markets but an extremely high 150 per cent import tariff means Scotch still only comprises less than 1 per cent of the country’s total liquor consumption.
The Spirit Drinks Verification Scheme came into effect in January, 2014 to give Scotch whisky consumers around the world assurance of authenticity.
Gray added, “None of the three companies described as the bottlers of these brands were listed under the Verification Scheme. We argued that this indicated that since at least January 10, 2015, the defendants could not have been supplied with bulk Scotch whisky for blending and bottling”.
“But by September, 2015 all three products were still advertised on an Oasis Group website with marketing, labelling and packaging referring to Scotch Whisky,” he said.
The SWA had argued that the lack of verification suggested there was no Scotch in any of the products and so the companies were in breach of Scotch Whisky’s geographical indication (GI) in India.
The association had also claimed that such labelling, packaging and advertising was “misleading” and “infringed” the registered Scotch Whisky GI.
Scotch whisky has “additional protection” under the Indian GI Act, which means even products that do contain some Scotch cannot reference the spirit on labels or in adverts for a whisky made in India.
Scotch is a specific term for whisky made from malted barley by a legally defined process, originating in Scotland.
Any bottlers outside Scotland who want to use Scotch whisky as a constituent in a local spirit must first apply for the verification process.
“Such decisions can only be good for Scotch in India and for consumers. Let’s raise a dram to that,” Gray concluded.