One word may not seem like much. But when it comes to a brand, it can represent a company’s whole identity. At least that’s the view of Andre Levy, maker of Wild Geese, a small independently-owned brand of Irish whiskey.
Levy is taking liquor giant Bacardi to task over its use of the word “untameable” (not the traditional spelling) in a new ad campaign for the company’s rum. Levy says the word is too close to Wild Geese’s “Untamed” slogan used since 2012. Levy has filed a complaint against Bacardi with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office over its new ad campaign. He has even created a website, Bacardi-Controversial, that slams Bacardi for its use of a similar word in its new ad campaign.
On the site, Levy says that Wild Geese trademarked “Untamed” in the U.S. in 2011. Levy is even going a step further, Buzzfeed reports, standing up for all small businesses who he says always lose intellectual property rights to big business. He has hired a lobbying firm and has met with members of Congress to find a supporter for his cause. He told Buzzfeed:
“The problem that presents to entrepreneurs is it really creates a wild West scenario with intellectual property. Because they’re better known, they’re saying there will be no confusion between the two trademarks.”
While the words are not exactly identical, Levy thinks consumers will associate the word “untamed” or “untameable” with Bacardi over Wild Geese. Once the bigger company’s campaign is launched, Wild Geese messages will be drowned out, he says. Levy writes on his anti-Bacardi website that the term “Untamed” is synonymous with Wild Geese whiskey. To lose that identity by having a bigger company simply take it, represents a loss of years of hard work and money. On his anti-Bacardi website, he writes:
“For entrepreneurs, their intellectual property – or I.P. – is often their most valuable asset. Their IP represents their reward for the many sacrifices made over many years, the result of risking everything to create something of value for themselves and their families.”
Though some, like TechDirt.com, have accused him of being vindictive, Levy insists small businesses and entrepreneurs must fight larger companies hard on trademark issues or risk losing their identity and their business.
Levy’s motives against Bacardi likely stem from previous experience. Not too many years ago, Levy was forced to change the labeling of his bottles in the U.S. when Pernod Ricard, makers of Wild Turkey bourbon, claimed the name of his whiskey infringed on their trademark. To allay Wild Turkey’s fears, Wild Geese attached a new phrase, “Irish Soldiers and Heroes.” It was a reference to the 17th century Irish soldiers for whom the whiskey is named.