Liquor dispute asks, who has the rights to sin?

February 18, 2012

Apparently, sin is no longer a spiritual matter to be absolved between a soul and its maker.

In fact, one New Orleans-based whiskey producer is claiming special rights to both the word and concept.

According to a recent lawsuit filed against Hood River Distillers - who released a new cinnamon-flavored libation called "SinFire Cinnamon Whisky" this month - the use of the word "sin" and packaging similarities allegedly violate a trademark held by Sazerac Inc.

Sazerac, who owns three distilleries in Kentucky, makes "Fireball Whisky," another cinnamon-flavored alcohol that has been distributed it in the U.S. since 2007.

Hood River Distillers, who asserts to be the largest and oldest importer, producer, bottler and marketer of spirits in the Northwest, has been in business since 1934. HRD currently produces a wide variety of specialty spirits including Pendleton Whisky, Knickers Irish Creme Whisky and Yazi Ginger Vodka.

Like many other spirit manufacturers around the world, HRD has already been venturing into the flavored alcohol beverage market within its product line.

Following development, HRD filed for a U.S. patent and trademark on behalf of its newly created "SinFire Cinnamon Whisky" in August 2011.

Letters from Sazerac attorneys were reportedly exchanged with Hood River Distillers' attorneys in December, resulting in unsuccessful resolution of Sazerac's claims against HRD.

Sazerac then filed a suit against HRD in federal court in Louisville, Ky., after implying in its letters to HRD that "SinFire" is too close in label appearance and name to its "Fireball" brand.

Hood River Distillers CEO Ronald Dodge did not immediately return a call for comment on the case.

Sazerac declined comment based on pending litigation.

When placing the products side by side, comparisons yield the following observations:

The label images are divergent - with "Fireball" sporting a distinct fire-breathing demon and "SinFire" displaying a stylized letter "S" with snake-like appendages above swirling flames. Bottle shapes are distinctly different but labels do share variations of red, black and orange as primary colors.

.Label color similarity is one of the noted complaints by Sazerac.

"Fireball" includes the tag "Tastes like heaven, burns like hell," after the product name. "SinFire" carries a bottle neck label that adds the words "evil spirit" to the packaging.

Sazerac also noted in its complaint that it currently uses the "sin" theme in its marketing promotions, including press packets supplied to reporters and other media.

While courts will certainly be involved in the official ruling on Sazerac's claim against HRD, there are perhaps historical and common-sense precedents to review which may influence the outcome of the case.

Whiskey, from the time of the early pioneers, has always been referred to as "firewater" and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is supported by what are commonly referred to as "sin taxes" levied on the sale of many of these controlled products.

Whether HRD will win the trademark rights to its unique product will be in the hands of a judge or jury - but as they say - the devil's in the details.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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