Young and Hungry

Trademark Dispute Between Green Hat Gin and New York’s Greenhook Ginsmiths

A trademark dispute is brewing between New Columbia Distillers' Green Hat Gin and Brooklyn-based distillery Greenhook Ginsmiths.

Yesterday, New Columbia Distillers filed a lawsuit against the LLC behind Greenhook Ginsmiths to protect its trademark, following a lawsuit that Greenhook's owner filed against the D.C. distillery in November. (Hat-tip to Legal Times reporter Zoe Tillman for tweeting a link to the complaint.)

New Columbia Distillers' complaint claims that it has superior rights to its Green Hat trademark because it filed its trademark application earlier. New Columbia Distillers filed its "Green Hat" trademark on April 22, 2011. Greenhook Ginsmiths filed on Sept. 28, 2011, and says in its own complaint that it has used the mark in commerce since August 2011. Green Hat Gin officially became available for sale in Oct. 2011.

"I think the name's obviously very confusing, but that's pretty much all I can say," Greenhook Ginsmiths founder Steven DeAngelo told Y&H. "All I'm really worried about right now is making the best gin in the country."

New Columbia Distillers argues that the trademarks are not confusingly similar and notes that there are already several other alcoholic drinks on the market that use "green" in their trademarks, including Green Devil, Green Moon, and Green Mark. The name Green Hat Gin is a nod to George Cassiday, a famous Prohibition-era bootlegger in D.C. whose nickname was the "Man in the Green Hat."

Greenhook Ginsmiths first sent a cease and desist letter to New Columbia Distillers in October. When the D.C. distillery rejected the cease and desist, Greenhook Ginsmiths filed a lawsuit in New Jersey, stating "Green Hat has numerous business relations and prospective business relations within the state of New Jersey." According to New Columbia Distillers' complaint, the two parties spoke on the phone on Jan. 4 and Greenhook Ginsmiths's attorney acknowledged that New Jersey courts may not have jurisdiction over New Columbia Distillers. The attorney said it may dismiss the lawsuit and file a new complaint in New York, where Greenhook is based. New Columbia Distillers says it has not yet been served in the New Jersey lawsuit. No lawsuit has been filed yet in New York.

"I haven’t tried it, but I’m sure that Greenhook Ginsmiths makes a very nice gin," New Columbia Distillers co-founder John Uselton writes in a statement he emailed to Y&H.  "I can tell you from experience that Green Hat’s gin is delicious.  Green Hat hopes the lawsuit can be quickly resolved, so the two companies can simply compete in the marketplace."

Check out the the rest of Uselton's statement below, along with the most recent lawsuit:

Green Hat gin is made locally here in DC and is the first legally distilled spirit made in DC in over a century.

The Green Hat name has an interesting story.  During prohibition, a World War I veteran, George Cassiday, provided bootleg liquor to Senators and Congressman.  Among other things, he was known for his distinctive green felt hat.  The “Green Hat” name is a tribute to him.

Another recently-started gin company, in New York, Greenhook Ginsmiths has been demanding that Green Hat pay damages and change its name.  Greenhook Ginsmiths claims people will confuse the two companies’ gin because both have the word “Green” in the name.

We disagree.  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.  So Green Hat filed its lawsuit to put Greenhook Ginsmiths’ claims to rest.  Green Hat doesn’t seek any damages from Greenhook Ginsmiths.  Green Hat simply seeks a declaratory judgment that “Green Hat” does not infringe on “Greenhook Ginsmiths.”

I haven’t tried it, but I’m sure that Greenhook Ginsmiths makes a very nice gin.  I can tell you from experience that Green Hat’s gin is delicious.  Green Hat hopes the lawsuit can be quickly resolved, so the two companies can simply compete in the marketplace.

  • CookInDineOut

    I hope this is resolved quickly. I have to agree with Uselton--doesn't seem confusing at all. Strikes me as more a publicity move by Greenhook.

    I just picked up my first bottle of Green Hat gin from Calvert-Woodley last week and am looking forward to trying it soon. Exciting to see a locally made spirit.

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  • kf

    If this lawsuit had any merit, then every generic brand of soda - including Mt. Breeze, Mt. Mellow, Mt. Rush, and Mt. Yeller - would be sued by the original (ie, Mt. Dew). Greenhook, stop wasting everyone's time.

  • D

    Reminds me of this other frivolous lawsuit: Hopefully the Brooklynites come to their senses quicker than Sun Microsystems did.

  • Novatronic

    Lawsuits like these are insulting to consumers. Just cut it out.

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