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SWA wins battle against Italian 'Scotch'

Published:  26 June, 2009

The Scotch Whisky Association has finally claimed victory in a long-running legal case, winning injunctions against Italian whiskies which claimed Scottish heritage.

The case can be traced back to the late 1980s when a number of brands, with names including MacQueen, Clan 55, Jackson's, Gold River, Royal Club and Sullivan, appeared on the market in Italy. Some claimed to be genuine Scotch whisky while others were marketed as having "matured" in Scotland.

All the products were supplied by Angelo Vendrame operating under several trading names. Each label referred to a shell UK company, Alex Albright Ltd, which had been set up by Vendrame, to suggest a false provenance for his products.

The SWA originally took action in the UK, following which Alex Albright Ltd was wound up. Court actions in Milan and Florence to the stop sale of several brands were successful.

Vendrame's local court in Belluno initially rejected an SWA case on technical grounds, but a series of appeals has led to a favourable - and final - Italian Supreme Court ruling.

In addition to obtaining injunctions against Vendrame, the SWA has a right to costs and damages.

An SWA spokesman said: "This has been a long battle to protect Italian consumers and Scotch whisky distillers from imitation products unfairly trading on Scotch whisky's reputation. Such practices left unchecked would undermine consumer confidence and the integrity of Scotch whisky.

"Our top priority must be to protect Scotch whisky from all forms of unfair competition and we are delighted at the successful outcome of this lengthy action in Italy."