Whisky lobbyists keep spirits up after 20 years in court

SCOTLAND'S whisky lobbyists will return to the courts next month to continue a 20-year fight to stop words such as Scot, Scotch and Highland being used by Indian distillers.

India's Supreme Court last week ruled that Peter Scot, a leading Indian brand, will be allowed to keep its name, the latest chapter in a case the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) first launched in 1987.

But despite the ruling, an SWA spokesman said the battle goes on. "Contrary to reports, there is an opportunity for the judgment to be brought back to court for review. We are looking at various options."

The SWA has won more than 15 court orders blocking the use of brand names such as Red Scot, Bonnie Scot, Royal Scot and Highland Chief since it took up arms against Indian whisky producers in the mid-1980s.

The SWA spokesman said: "Given the clear evidence before the court, we find it inexplicable that it did not uphold the rulings of all the lower courts that the use of the word Scot in this trademark was likely to mislead consumers as to the origin of what is an Indian whisky.

"Courts around the world, including on many occasions in India, have consistently ruled against such deceptive practices."

The Supreme Court argued that the SWA had little case against Peter Scot as it only filed its case in 1987, 13 years after the whisky's producers Khoday India registered the trademark.

The spokesman said Indian law gave the SWA 30 days to contest the ruling. As well as taking the case back to India's Supreme Court, the SWA will also continue its battle against the Peter Scot brand in the Mumbai courts.

India is the world's largest consumer of whisky, but Scottish producers control only a tiny fraction of the market, which is dominated by a spirit made from molasses, which cannot be sold as whisky within the European Union.

But most Indian whiskies tend to make some allusion to whisky's Scottish roots, with the cheekiest wink at Scottishness coming from Vijay Mallya, the country's largest producer, which bought Whyte & Mackay last year. Bottles of Mallya's Bagpiper brand are fronted by a tartan-clad piper striding across the green hillside, wearing a red turban in place of a Glengarry cap.