At a cursory look, the minimal lawful specifications for manufacturing Scotch Whisky seem to be deceptively simple. The spirit can only be produced in Scotland from just three organic elements – water, yeast and cereals – and must be matured in oak casks for a minimal of a few yrs.
Nonetheless, it is an outstandingly successful recipe for an sector that saw worldwide exports hit a report £6 billion in 2022 and that outsells Japanese, American, Canadian and Irish opposition combined, which is plainly a sobering assumed. But, as Alan Park, director of authorized affairs at the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) because 2016 points out, that even though imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, at any offered time there are some 60 court docket cases close to the globe contesting counterfeit Scotch manufacturers.
Very last year, for instance, the SWA won a 9-yr-extensive authorized circumstance against German distiller Waldhorn around its use of the term “Glen” immediately after an earlier courtroom ruling was upheld by the Hanseatic Greater Regional Court docket in Hamburg which ruled that the distillery experienced to alter the title of the whisky as it breached the Geographical Indicator (GI) of Scotch – and the inclusion of the term “Glen” may possibly indicate to consumers that it was created in Scotland.
Glen Buchenbach duly joined the checklist of proscribed brand name names. “Our case against Glen Buchenbach presented obvious and compelling evidence to the court that ‘Glen’ is strongly connected with Scotland and Scotch Whisky, and the only cause to use ‘Glen’ for a German whisky is due to the fact of its undoubted affiliation with Scotch Whisky,” Mr Park commented on the consequence.
Intriguingly, his fascination in the conservation of unique historic tradition might have taken a totally distinct training course. “I alternatively fell into the law somewhat than actively pursuing it as a profession,” he claims. “I seriously wanted to be an archaeologist or historian which had been between my choices for university but for 1 explanation or a different I decided to do a law diploma legislation at the College of Glasgow and specially savored the community regulation, political and regulatory facet.”
So, transferring via criminal defence function and civil cases then getting a companion in a Glasgow law company, when the opportunity arose to utilize for the job of authorized counsel at the SWA in 2003 he noticed it as the perfect possibility to blend an interest in litigation with a item that he loved – plus assisting a distinctively Scottish sector.
“We’re associated in an location of function that’s amazingly different and I imagine that’s why lots of of us in the group have stayed in the part for so extended simply because it’s a person that by no means will get stale.” There are five legal professionals at the SWA, like Mr Park as well as two paralegals. “We typically check out to divide the function amongst Asia Pacific, the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.”
So, though occupying an business in Edinburgh’s Quartermile may seem relatively extra agreeable than burrowing by means of a Neolithic trench in Orkney or meticulously measuring a broch in Caithness, he at least has the gratification of currently being a senior custodian of an enjoyably enduring element of the country’s record.
Though there have been some distinctly implausible makes an attempt at ‘Scotch’ fabrications, these as the Glen Highland Green Blended Whisky that emanated from Fujian province in south-east China, extra common, cosmopolitan monikers are usually hijacked – or in a person circumstance that Mr Park recollects, can-jacked.
“Several many years ago, I obtained a call from a German businessman who experienced been travelling in the Center East and had occur across a can of what was labelled as ‘blended Scotch Whisky’ though combining the names of two prestigious reputable makes.
“Unsurprisingly, he instructed me that he imagined it was it was terrible we experienced it chemically analysed by the Scotch Whisky’s Study Institute, the industry’s study and know-how organisation, which disclosed that the mis-titled product or service was effectively just flavoured vodka.”
A year-long investigation then disclosed that it experienced been transported as a result of Turkey and was also on sale in Hamburg. “We obtained information and facts from customs authorities that allowed us to trace its manufacturing to Austria and a raid on the facility garnered more than enough proof to acquire civil motion from the organization in dilemma which went all the way to the Austrian Supreme Court docket – however ultimately that took seven decades.”
These conditions are all, Mr Park concedes, section of the Scotch Whisky business playing what he describes as a “long-term game” and when distillers will act if their very own logos are infringed, it continues to be the task of the SWA’s authorized staff to make sure that Scotch’s Geographical Indicator (GI) status is secured.
As perfectly as litigation in opposition to counterfeit Scotch makes, which tends to go as a result of peaks and troughs (for instance, about a five-year period the SWA had to get 15 federal court docket steps in New South Wales and Victoria involving 40 independent brand names) Mr Park and his staff are also frequently engaged in trademark monitoring – what he describes as the pre-emptive strike versus the gross sales of these types of products.
“Geographical indications are rights associated with meals and drink of a certain origin because of the reputations and properties involved with that put. And GIs these kinds of as Scotch Whisky get a pretty large level of security in the Uk and the EU.
“The nations around the world the place we have the greatest variety of trademark applications to critique, and if essential, oppose are the United States, China and India,” he adds.
Some 60 per cent of Mr Park’s team’s work entails pursuing this sort of steps, with added regulatory get the job done and presenting suggestions to the association’s whisky-producer users – but the extensive-term game also consists of parts this kind of as import tariffs, customs treatments and guaranteeing that we have an liquor tax process in shape for the 21st century.
“There are 5 attorneys at the SWA, together with me and my group and two paralegals. And we usually check out and divide the get the job done up in between Asia Pacific, Americas and Europe, Middle East Africa,” claims Mr Park.
And whilst he concedes that the sector has the scale and resources to battle its corner throughout the world, he says the SWA is also lively in partaking with the enforcement authorities not only in stressing how Scotch Whisky need to be secured by the regulation, “we usually companion with other food items and consume interest groups so that their mental residence rights, which are geographical indications, are adequately recognised”.
At dwelling in Stirling, Mr Park has “two great kids” who hold him normally occupied in transporting them in between swimming, gymnastics, songs, scouts and other things to do helped by his spouse Nicola, who he describes as “calm and intelligent … possibly not shocking in a person who is a yoga teacher”, and as a eager walker he continue to comes across examples of his continuing interest in record and archaeology.
In any other case, in a planet increasingly impelled by on-line reviews and typically dubiously sourced news, Mr Park retains a very low profile. “I really don’t have a particular require to have a social media profile,” he claims, moderately pointing out that as section of his purpose is chasing counterfeiters around the planet it helps make perception to be fairly nameless to those involved.
“But I in essence appreciate undertaking what I do, which is protecting an incredible market from unfair competition all-around the environment. It’s a worthwhile process and there is no one particular else really like us, as the role is such a specialised 1.”