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SWA wins key passing-off victory for Scotch in India

Published:  25 February, 2016

The Scottish Whisky Association has won a key victory in the fight against passing off in India.

India's commercial court granted the SWA permanent injunctions against three related companies behind the manufacture and marketing of the Royal Arms, Blue Patrol and Malbros brands of whiskies.

All three brands referenced 'Scotch', 'Scotch Whisky' or 'Scotland' on their labels.

The companies involved were Oasis Distilleries, Adie Broswon Distillers & Bottlers, and Malbros International.

They have also been prohibited from using any words, names, images or devices evocative of Scotland or Scotch whisky in future, unless the product can be verified as genuine Scotch whisky.

This was the first action taken by the SWA as a result of its Spirit Drinks Verification Scheme, which was launched in January 2014 to reassure consumers worldwide about the provenance and authenticity of any Scottish whisky they buy.

The scheme verifies every link in the Scotch supply chain, and also requires any bottlers outside Scotland who want to use Scotch Whisky as a constituent in a local spirit to apply for verification too.

The absence of verification on the products in question meant that they infringed the SWA's registration of 'Scotch Whisky' in India as a geographical indication, the court ruled.

India sells 290m cases of spirits a year, making it the second largest market for spirits in the world. China is the world's largest market, consuming 620 million cases.

However, Scotch only makes up less than 1% of India's total spirits consumption.

The SWA believes that the current 150% import tariff on spirits in India is distorting competition in the marketplace and hindering the growth of Scotch sales.

Four out of the five fastest-growing spirits brands in the world are Indian whiskies, and there are seven in the top 25.

Whisky is the only spirit in growth in the Indian market. It grew by 4% in 2014. Gin, by contrast, slumped by 12.4%.

By the end of the decade, India it is expected to have an economy the size of Germany and Japan combined.

Its spirits market remains remains undeveloped, however.

There are only 65,000 licensed spirits retailers in India, or one retailer for every 18,000 people, which is 76 times lower than the global average.