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Using a state name in your brand


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I have researched and cannot find a definitive yes or no or maybe so for using a state name in your brand? I understand you can't claim to be the official Gin of Rhode Island but can you use the state name? 

 

Thoughts?

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I would not recommend the use of a place in your name, you simply can't protect your brand image.

There's nothing to stop Rhode Island Distillery followed by Rhode Island Artisan Distillery followed by Rhode Island Distillery & Brewery etc I'm sure you get the drill.

No imagine you're a visitor to the area and you're trying to recall which one of these you were mean't to be visiting?

Not to mention the unnecessary angst it will create with the owners of each of the individual enterprises...all of which could be easily avoided by foreseeing this and not going down that path in the first place.

 

Just my 2 cents. 

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The only place where you can run into trouble is in designating or branding a whiskey, in as much as then the whiskey must have been distilled in that state, especially if it is a straight. Should not affect the distillery name, however.

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Product name and brand name are the same.  What you call product name, TTB calls brand name.  

Blue Star's advice is sound.  Specifically, Section 5.34, which discusses brand names, prohibits misleading brand names.  It states,  "No label shall contain any brand name, which, standing alone, or in association with other printed or graphic matter, creates any impression or inference as to the age, origin, identity, or other characteristics of the product unless the appropriate TTB officer finds that such brand name (when appropriately qualified if required) conveys no erroneous impressions as to the age, origin, identity, or other characteristics of the product."  A brand name like "Wisconsin's Best," when used on a whiskey, would, I think,  convey the "impression" that the whiskey's "origin" was Wisconsin.  That is fine if the whiskey was distilled in Wisconsin.  But as blue Star points out, Section 5.36(d) provides, "Except in the case of “light whisky”, “blended light whisky”, “blended whisky”, “a blend of straight whiskies”, or “spirit whisky”, the State of distillation shall be shown on the label of any whisky produced in the United States if the whisky is not distilled in the State given in the address on the brand label."

Thus, the language of the statute that prohibits statements that are likely to create a misleading impression, becomes, in the regulation,  a policy that TTB must actually find that the brand name does not create a misleading impression.

TTB is sloppy in what they approve, but if they adhere to their own requirements,  TTB's thinking on these matters is best illustrated by the prohibitions it has imposed on wine labels that bear a brand name that includes a vitacultural area.  Wine is not spirits, and the parts of the regulation that address the labeling of each are different, but the regulations derive from the same sections of law.

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The TTB will approve.

 

Example - "Traverse City Whiskey". Look at their website which describes their "long lost family recipe". They have bougt and bottled their "Traversse City Whsikey" with amazing success with out making a drop. They ship it in from out of state. The "Traverse City" name is in bold letters on the label and because it is a tourist town everyone wants a bottle and 99% have no clue it is NOT made in Michigan.

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6 hours ago, Shindig said:

The TTB will approve.

 

Example - "Traverse City Whiskey". Look at their website which describes their "long lost family recipe". They have bougt and bottled their "Traversse City Whsikey" with amazing success with out making a drop. They ship it in from out of state. The "Traverse City" name is in bold letters on the label and because it is a tourist town everyone wants a bottle and 99% have no clue it is NOT made in Michigan.

There are a lot of examples out there like that now that you put it that way.  

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Yes, and there are a lot of examples of TTB giving inappropriate approvals.  White whiskey labels are one.  White whiskey, which is an oxymoron out of the gate, is one such example.  

TTB regularly screws up on enforcing its own rules.  That is why it is useful to make a distinction about what one "can" do and what one "may" do under any particular provision of the regulation.  

You "may " use geographic brand names on whiskey if the name is not misleading as to the state of distillation of the whiskey.  You "can" use geographic brand names on whiskey, even if the name is  misleading as to the state of distillation of the whiskey, if TTB approves the label.  

We could go further.  You "may " not omit  the State of distillation on the label of any whisky produced in the United States if the whisky is not distilled in the State given in the address on the brand label, but you "can" get a label approved that omits that statement.   [27 CFR 5.36(d)]

So, is the standard what you can get away with or what TTB requires?  If TTB does not enforce a provision of regulation,  the answer to that question is an ethical judgement that you make.  But, if TTB decides that it will begin enforcing a provision it has ignored in the past, the formerly ethical question becomes one of the consequences the enforcement will  have on you and your brand.  Approval is not a panacea or a get out of jail free card (no, I'm not suggesting TTB will lock you up, but it could "incarcerate" your brand.    

Remember, the COLA comes with conditions.  You find them on the back of the form.  It states, "This certificate does not relieve you from liability for violations of the FAA Act" and other applicable regulations.  It goes on, "You must ensure that 1) all the information on your application is true and correct and 2) any and all information (including words, text, illustrations, graphics, etc) shown or presented on the label(s) affixed to this certificate is truthful, accurate and not misleading."  

TTB is giving a warning: just because its approval of a label says you "can" affix it to the bottle, that does not mean that you "may" affix it without consequence if it is misleading in anyway.  If you ignore the ethical dimension of the question - I am not making any judgement on whether you "should" do so -  the practical question still lingers as a "reward vs. risk" assessment that you have to make.  Is TTB's bark worse than its bite?  If it bites, will it be a mere nip, a worrisome puncture, or a tearing away of hunks of flesh?     

 

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Also, remember, if there is no formulation, and a label get approves, the TTB is only approving that it is a legal label, not that it is a legal label for your product. You have to ensure that the product labeled that way meets the CFR requirements. The TTB won't notice the difference until you get audited, or someone complains. For example, I know of MANY distilleries selling whiskey WITHOUT an age statement. It is a legally approved label, because a whiskey without an age statement is a 4yo+ whiskey, thus allowed. But I also know that these whiskies are younger than 4yo. They have an approved label, but the spirit is labeled ILLEGALLY.

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