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Judges disagree over whisky island

Published 07/05/2015

Barrels from the Jura whisky distillery on the Scottish island Jura
Barrels from the Jura whisky distillery on the Scottish island Jura

Two judges who analysed a trademark dispute involving Scotch whisky disagreed over drinkers' grasp of geography.

One thought that the "average consumer" would not be aware that Jura was an island in Scotland - and suggested that most drinkers would think that Jura was the name of a producer. The other had "some doubts".

Detail has emerged in a ruling after the dispute reached the High Court in London.

Mr Justice Arnold said Glasgow-based drinks producer Whyte and Mackay had applied to register the words "Jura Origin" as a trade mark.

He said a firm called Origin Wine had objected.

A specialist trade marks judge or "hearing officer" - George Salthouse - had initially analysed the dispute and ruled in favour of Origin.

Whyte and Mackay had appealed to a High Court judge - and Mr Justice Arnold had upheld the appeal.

"I will assume that the hearing officer was correct to conclude that the average consumer would not be aware that Jura was an island in Scotland (although I am bound to say that I have some doubts about this)," said Mr Justice Arnold.

"It follows that ... the average consumer would perceive the word Jura as being distinctive of Whyte and Mackay's goods. In those circumstances, I consider that the expression Jura Origin would be understood by the average consumer as meaning that the goods originated from the producer called Jura."

A website dedicated to Jura says the Hebridean island can be found off the west coast of Scotland.

"The Isle of Jura is one of Scotland's last wildernesses," says http://isleofjura.scot. "A little over 200 people are outnumbered by 3,500 deer."

The website says Jura has a "lot of offer" - including a distillery - and was where author George Orwell stayed in the 1940s while writing the novel 1984.

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