The US multinational that makes one of the world's bestselling whiskeys, Jack Daniel's, has registered the name Slane as a trademark for the next decade.
The registration of the trademark throughout the European Union by a subsidiary of the Kentucky-based Brown Forman emerged after a business in the Co Meath village, which had wanted to use "Slane" in its title, found it was blocked from doing so.
The trademark stops companies from using “Slane” in any alcoholic drink brands, or merchandise such as sports bags, mugs, hats, golf balls, umbrellas, key rings or sweatshirts.
The trademark right to the word Slane was granted last year to Slane Castle Irish Whiskey Ltd – which was set up by Lord Henry Mountcharles and his son Alexander in 2009 and sold to Brown Forman in 2015.
Questioned about the decision, the European Union Intellectual Property Office based in Alicante, Spain, accepted that a company would not be able to register “Barcelona” or “Madrid” as trademarks.
However, he said he would not be able to comment on the decision in relation to Slane until the matter was examined. He said the decision could be challenged.
US application refused
A similar application to the US Patent and Trade Mark Office was refused because the word is the name of a place. Restrictions apply on the granting of trademark rights over place names.
Slane Castle Irish Whiskey was sold to Brown Forman by Lord Mountcharles and his family in a deal that saw the US company investing €44 million. A distillery and visitor centre is being built on the estate.
When it was pointed out that the application was made by Slane Castle Irish Whiskey, with an address for correspondence at Slane Castle, Slane, Co Meath, the EU Patents Office official said this may not have been noticed.
The records in the US Patent and Trade Mark Office show that it refused the application after it discovered, via a Wikipedia search, that Slane was a village in Ireland and that there was a website publication called Slanetimes.com.
In an unsuccessful request for reconsideration, Slane Castle Irish Whiskey argued that the issue was whether Slane would be known to the purchasing public in the US.
It said that “Slane’s extremely small size” was reflected in the fact that it did not appear on a number of named online maps of Ireland, or in the CIA World Factbook. Slane was obscure and remote as a location.
In refusing the request, the office cited pages from lonelyplanet.com, tripadvisor.com, discoverireland.ie, and slanefarmhousehostel.ie to argue that the word Slane “identifies a geographic location generally known to the relevant American public”.
The file on the US application is not yet closed. A request for a comment from Slane Castle Irish Whiskey met with no response.