By Nichole Alabi
A local Kentucky distillery called Kentucky Mist Moonshine has filed suit this month against the University of Kentucky for the use of the word Kentucky. According to Kentucky Mist Moonshine attorney Jim Francis, the University Of Kentucky (UK) threatened legal action against Kentucky Mist Moonshine for its pursuit of a federal trademark registration for the Kentucky Mist Moonshine mark for hats, hooded sweatshirts, jackets, pants, shirts, shoes and socks in international trademark Class 25 based on its registration of the Kentucky Mist mark. The suit contends that they should be allowed to register in that category and that there is no trademark dilution to UK caused by its registration. Kentucky Mist asks the court to rule that there is no infringement of the Kentucky mark by Kentucky Mist Moonshine's use of the word Kentucky.
These are the type of social justice issues that are plaguing the field of trademarks. The University of Kentucky is not only an academic powerhouse but a financial powerhouse with a $992 and licensing monies coming in from the merchandise connected to its multi-national championship winning basketball team. Kentucky Mist Moonshine on the other hand is an Eastern Kentucky moonshine distilled in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains and doesn’t even have a working website. The simple premise of the case is that the University of Kentucky thinks it owns the geographical location Kentucky precluding any small business also from the region from using the name that is also rightfully theirs.
I applaud Kentucky Mist Moonshine for making the first move and getting the ball rolling on litigation instead of waiting to be crushed underfoot. This case is garnering national attention for the small brand not only for their product but for their bravery in going up against the big guy.