BOSTON (CN) – Tired of Pernod Ricard ripping off its classic cocktail, the Dark ‘n Stormy, Bermuda’s premier spirits maker wants a federal court injunction.
Gosling Brothers filed the federal complaint Tuesday against Pernod Ricard, the makers of Malibu Rum, for trademark infringement.
It says the official recipe for a Dark ‘n Stormy calls for 1.5 ounces of Gosling’s Black Seal Rum and 4 to 5 ounces of any brand of ginger beer. Using any other brand of rum is incorrect, according to Gosling’s lawsuit.
In October 2014, however, Pernod published a recipe on its website for a Dark ‘n Stormy that used Malibu Rum, rather than Gosling’s.
“Defendant’s actions are knowing, willful, deliberate and performed with the interest to trade off of Gosling’s goodwill and reputation tied to the iconic Dark ‘N Stormy marks,” the federal complaint states. “Defendant’s wrongful conduct has caused or will cause Gosling to lose control over the goodwill and reputation associated with the Dark ‘N Stormy marks.”
Though Gosling first established its Dark ‘n Stormy trademark in 1991, when the company began marketing a premade cocktail drink of the same, it says the drink’s history extends much earlier.
More recently, the company has expanded its trademark to cocktail kits, clothing and the recipe itself.
The company traces its roots to James Gosling’s landing in the Bermudas during a failed 1806 expedition from England to Virginia. The son of a wine and spirits merchant, Gosling remained on the island and founded a rum company.
Gosling Brothers, as the business came to be known, began bringing rum distillate to Bermuda in 1850, according to the complaint.
The company claims to owe its export business, and its Black Seal Rum brand name, to a stroke of genius after World War I.
With tourists looking to bring home rum from Bermuda, Gosling Brothers began reclaiming champagne bottles from a local mess hall for British officers, filling them up with rum and sealing the recorked bottles with black wax.
British soldiers in post-World War Bermuda began mixing ginger beer from a local factory operated by the Royal Navy Officers’ Club with Gosling’s Black Seal Rum to invent the Dark ‘n Stormy, according to the complaint.
The Dark ‘n Stormy is one of a few cocktails with trademarked recipes. The Sazerac, which is owned by a spirit company with the same, includes Sazerac Rye Whiskey and is referred to by the company’s website as “the official cocktail of New Orleans.”
Another famed New Orleans cocktail, the Hand Grenade, was the subject of a lawsuit that the Bourbon Street bar Tropical Isle brought against other Louisiana restaurants that were infringing on its recipe.
Pusser’s Rum successfully sued a New York City bar infringing on its drink, The Painkiller. The bar was operating as The Painkiller Lounge while also serving its own version of the cocktail using different rum than Pusser’s, as explained in an open letter from Pusser’s founder Charles Tobias on the company’s website.
Pernod Ricard did not respond to a request for comment.
Gosling is represented by Craig Scott of Hinckley, Allen & Snyder in Providence, R.I.
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