India, Scotland in same news story: Must be trademark law

Two of the least probable Commonwealth countries* slug it out! The AP reports:

An Indian court has ruled that Indian whiskey manufacturers cannot use the words Scot or Scotch to describe their products, in compliance with World Trade Organization rules, a newspaper reported Monday.

Indian plans its own genteel revenge (think Darjeeling tea). It’s a big setback for “Red Scot” (the Indian scotch brand), considering that, as the (real) Scotsman reports, “Analysts believe the Indian market for all whiskies – including Scottish brands – is now approaching such a volume that it is almost as big as the world Scotch market.” It’s all about the trademark concept of geographical indicators (GI’s), as explained nicely here. This is actually quite an interesting subtopic in trademark law, and as business and brands go global it’s an increasingly important one. One website called BrandChannel.com asked (a couple of years ago) the gustatorial question, “Is it bologna if it’s not from Bologna?” (Of course we converted bologna to “baloney” hereabouts a long time ago, and I have yet to hear a complaint from the Mayor of Baloney.) As the story there explains:

Parmesan, Burgundy, Chablis, Bologna, and Feta are a few such names whose usage some EU countries would like to see terminated outside the country or region from which the product originates. The feeling is that those names signify specific brands belonging to specific regions in their countries. For those raised on Oscar Mayer bologna in their school sack lunches, it may be strange to think that this designation signifies a geographical indication. Bologna is a generic description of meat in the US, but in Europe, those GIs tend to signify products from regions that uphold a specific quality.

Most of these issues do, as is evident, have to do with food, as noticed by this foodish man.

All of which certainly raises interesting questions. I never saw or heard anything called a “Texas Weiner” until I moved to northern New Jersey. Indeed, they are creatures of the very Passaic County, New Jersey in which I am sitting as I write this. Don’t ask me what they taste like; I don’t think anyone makes a kosher one. There’s lot of this confusion about.  The good news is that watching trademark law being made, as painful as it can be sometimes, is still not as bad as watching them make sausage.

But did you know there’s a place called “the Scotland of India“?!

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Author:Ron Coleman

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