Washington's first micro-distillery - or, at least, its first legal one - filed a lawsuit yesterday seeking to protect its trademark against legal action brought by a New York gin producer.
New Columbia Distillers LLC, the D.C.-based producers of Green Hat Gin, was sued (PDF) for trademark infringement in November in New Jersey federal court by Green Farms II LLC, which makes Greenhook Ginsmiths brand gin. New Columbia filed a complaint (PDF) yesterday in Washington federal court asking for a court to determine that its trademarks are valid and should be protected.
New Columbia filed for trademarks on "Green Hat" and related terms beginning in April 2011, according to the complaint. The name stems from the story of a Prohibition-era bootlegger in Washington often identified by his choice of green headwear.
Green Farms, in its complaint against New Columbia in New Jersey, claimed that the Green Hat brand was too similar to the Greenhook product name and would prove confusing in the marketplace. Green Farms said it began using Greenhook as its brand identity in August 2011. After learning that New Columbia was selling Green Hat Gin, Green Farms sent the company a cease-and-desist letter last October.
New Columbia, in its complaint, argued that a slew of alcoholic beverages using the word "green" can and do exist without causing confusion and, regardless, the company had its trademark first. According to New Columbia's complaint, Green Farms filed to secure a trademark for "Greenhook Ginsmiths" in September 2011 and got approval to use labels with that name in early January 2012.
New Columbia wants a judge to issue a declaratory judgment that it has the right to Green Hat; that the two names aren't "confusingly" similar; and that New Columbia didn't infringe on Green Farm's mark. The case is before U.S. District Judge Richard Roberts.
Venable partner Damon Wright is representing New Columbia. In a statement, he noted that his client isn't seeking damages and said they're pursuing the case "to put Greenhook Ginsmiths’ claims to rest."
"There are dozens of registered trademarks for distilled spirits and liquors that use the word 'Green.' We don’t believe people will be confused. The labels also look entirely different. Green Hat's trademark is also registered," Wright said. "Green Hat hopes the lawsuit can be quickly resolved, so the two companies can simply compete in the marketplace."
When asked about the case, Green Farms founder Steven DeAngelo replied in an email that, "All I care about right now is making the best Gin in America." Green Farms is being represented in the New Jersey case by Jonathan Fallon of Mandelbaum Salsburg in West Orange, NJ.