Apparently, that knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (whiskey) is the sound of a process server. Bob Dylan’s new bourbon venture is being sued by the similar sounding distillation conglomerate, Heaven Hill. As you might have guessed, Heaven Hill is arguing that their trademark has been infringed.
Dylan first realized that he might need a good lawyer back in April when he announced the launch of Heaven’s Door, a whiskey range created with distiller/entrepreneur Marc Bushala (formerly of Angel’s Envy.) Dylan, being the preeminent American poet of a generation, attracted lots of hype when news of the project broke. The project also attracted a cease-and-desist letter from Heaven Hill.
Heaven Hill argued that the Heaven’s Door project “will create a likelihood of confusion” between the two products. The letter also claimed that the “stacked” style of logo employed by both companies would add to the confusion.
The Heaven’s Door legal team did not think there was too much confusion there and Heaven Hill did not get relief. Instead, Heaven’s Door fired off a reply stating they “did not intend to change the Infringing Mark or otherwise comply with the demands.” Dylan’s song, “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” is an institution and the packaging is based on metal sculptures created by the Nobel Laureate himself they explained.
So, Heaven Hill decided to escalate. Infinite may not be going up on trial, but the trademark will be. On August 17, the spirits producer filed a suit in U.S. District Court in Louisville, KY accusing Heaven’s Door of trademark infringement, trade name infringement and unfair competition. The complaint noted that Heaven Hill spent over $7.5 million on domestic marketing over the last five years and added that the company additionally has utilized the trademark for over 80 years.
Heaven Hill demanded some severe actions. For starters, they requested that the presiding judge to grant a temporary injunction prohibiting Heaven’s Door from producing, distributing or marketing their whiskey until the case is settled. Then, they demanded damages paid, basically a share of the revenue that they believe Heaven’s Door made off their name.
Finally, Heaven Hill wants to destroy the competition—literally. The complaint also requested that Heaven’s Door “deliver up for destruction or other disposition all goods, packaging, containers, advertisements, promotions, signs, displays” with the allegedly offensive moniker.
Heaven’s Door has no intention of rolling over. In a statement, the distillers said that they “find the allegations to be completely without merit and intends to vigorously defend itself and its HEAVEN’S DOOR brand.” The brand also stressed that the trademark in question was already “examined and approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the “Heaven’s Door” name and stylized versions of its name.”
Plaintiff’s counsel declined to comment about ongoing litigation.