Music fans in California will likely recognize the song “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan. This famous tune inspired the name of the Heaven’s Door brand of whiskey, which debuted this year in collaboration with the famous songwriter. However, the name has also inspired a trademark infringement lawsuit. Heaven Hill, a large distillery, filed a complaint in federal court because the whiskey producer considers the name and logo of Heaven’s Door whiskey confusingly similar to its brand.
This legal action accompanied a cease-and-desist letter issued by Heaven Hill to Heaven’s Door Spirits, LLC. In the view of the management at Heaven Hill, the similarities of the stacked logos for the whiskey brands would impede consumers’ ability to distinguish between the two products. Heaven Hill has used its name since 1937, but Heaven’s Door only launched its whiskeys this year.
A representative from Heaven’s Door said that the company has no intention of honoring the demands from Heaven Hill. The new distillery plans to fight the lawsuit in court.
A business person responsible for protecting a company’s intellectual property could consult an attorney when trademark infringement is suspected or accusations arise from an outside party. An attorney could evaluate a product or service’s brand messaging and market recognition and consider how to defend its uniqueness. To prepare trademark infringement litigation, an attorney could document the history of a trademark’s use and association with a company. This could establish in court a company’s right to own and control the trademark. When representing a new company or brand, an attorney could prepare arguments that distinguish the new trademark from existing products.