Hartung Schroeder attorney, Charlie Wittmack, acts as legal counsel for the Explorers Club in Manhattan, which has filed suit against the parent of Johnnie Walker for misuse of the Club’s name.
STORY BY: Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY
Looks like the parent of Johnnie Walker may have messed with the wrong club.
To be specific: The Explorers Club.
On one hand, that’s the name of an ultra-famous New York club of legendary explorers, whose members have included everyone from the first Mount Everest climber Edmund Hillary, to the first moon walker Neil Armstrong.
On the other hand, Diageo, which owns Johnnie Walker whisky, slapped the Explorers Club name on a new brand of whisky in late 2012, that’s sold in duty-free shops..
Result: The Explorers Club of New York has filed a lawsuit against Diageo — demanding that the distiller stop selling the brand or pay the exclusive club licensing fees. The club sent a cease and desist letter to the company last spring.
According to the New York Post, the 120-year-old New York-based club says it owns the trademark on the name. Earlier this week, the club hosted its 110th annual dinner, with celebrity guests including Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.
Since it was founded in 1904, the club has served as a meeting point and unifying force for explorers and scientists worldwide. The Club’s members have been responsible for an eyebrow-raising series of famous firsts: First to the North Pole, first to the South Pole, first to the summit of Mount Everest, first to the deepest point in the ocean, first to the surface of the moon.
And now, its first lawsuit against one of the world’s biggest distilleries, whose famous brands stretch well beyond Johnnie Walker to include Crown Royal, J&B, Smirnoff and Guinness.
The Manhattan suit says the font on the Explorers Club whisky label is “confusingly similar” to the one used by the club. The club says it filed the suit after talks with the company broke down. It wants Diageo to stop selling the brand or pay for licensing fees.
Diageo didn’t immediately return a request for comment on Friday.
Contributing: Associated Press