THE FIRMS BEHIND Irish whiskey brand The Wild Geese have taken Irish Distillers to court for allegedly causing, and continuing to cause, “serious damage” to its brand.
Avalon has the exclusive licence for The Wild Geese brand, while Protégé International Group is the exclusive sales agent for the whiskey product in the EU.
Both firms allege that Irish Distillers has “abused its dominant position” in the Irish whiskey market by refusing to supply it while supplying other whiskey brands.
Irish Distillers, which has brands such as Jameson, Powers and Midleton under its wing, has contested the claim. It said that it previously offered to supply its smaller rival but couldn’t agree terms.
Irish Distillers’ large-scale production facility in Midleton in Cork produces a number of Irish whiskeys and in a statement the company said it actively supports other Irish whiskey products.
‘Without objective justification’
Avalon and Protégé are seeking a High Court order that would require Irish Distillers to supply Irish whiskey to them. This has been requested by Protégé on numerous occasions since 2001. The pair are also seeking damages against the whiskey giant.
Protégé chief executive Andre Levy accused Irish Distillers of causing damage to the development and existence of smaller brands like The Wild Geese.
He said: “We have made multiple requests over the years to Irish Distillers for the supply of mature and immature Irish whiskey which have been refused by Irish Distillers without objective justification.
“Protégé has requested minimal volumes of Irish Whiskey from Irish Distillers by reference to Irish Distillers’ production capacity.”
The company was engaged in lengthy negotiations with Irish Distillers in 2011, and said the bigger company offered to supply mature and immature whiskey only on condition that The Wild Geese brand would not be sold in the same territories as Jameson.
Protégé said it refused this condition because it made “no commercial sense”. It also said that Irish Distillers’ parent company Pernod Ricard took a number of unsuccessful claims against the brand for its similarity to its Wild Turkey bourbon product.
In a statement to TheJournal.ie, an Irish Distillers spokesperson said that the complaints made by Levy had already been adjudicated upon twice in the past 10 years by the European Commission.
The spokesperson said: “At various stages, Irish Distillers has in good faith proposed to Protégé International supply options that it has refused.”
In the space of six years, the number of distillers has trebled and “Irish Distillers always welcomes the emergence of new players in the Irish whiskey category”.
The spokesperson added that Irish Distillers does work in a number of areas to support other distillers:
“To help new entrants, Irish Distillers was one of the founding members of the Irish Whiskey Association in 2014 which was set up to protect and promote Irish whiskey globally as well as develop targeted supports for new entrants.
“Irish Distillers also actively mentors new Irish whiskey companies, inviting them to Midleton Distillery and providing advice for them on technical issues.”
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Written by Sean Murray and posted on TheJournal.ie