Singer Mariah Carey, who announced her new liquor brand last month, said it was called Black Irish in a nod to her father, who was black, and her mother’s Irish heritage.
But, at least for now, you can’t sell it in Ireland or the rest of the European Union.
For over a year, Ms. Carey’s Irish cream liqueur line has been locked in a dispute with Darker Still Spirits, an Irish spirits company that has owned the Black Irish European trademark since 2015.
Representatives for Ms. Carey or her brand did not respond to requests for comment.
Richard Ryan, co-director of Darker Still, said he trusted his company’s trademark but criticized Carey’s tactics in trying to reach the European market.
“You don’t assimilate into Irish culture and at the same time do everything in your power to damage a real Irish business,” he said.
Darker Still registered his trademark claim at March 2015, and officially introduced its Black Irish product, which is strong blended with whiskey, in June 2020. Ms Carey’s representatives, through a company called Lotion LLC, applied for the European trademark at January 2020, and later it was applied to the trademark “A Cause for Celebration Black Irish”, a measure that was rejected by the European Union Intellectual Property Office.
The office said it did not comment on individual cases.
European authorities are still assessing the status of the Black Irish brand, according to John Herzog, who has a joint venture with Ms Carey in a company called Splashes Beverages. That company applied for the Black Irish trademark in January 2021.
“We will let the EUTM decide whether it is a valid trademark or not,” Herzog said, using an abbreviation for the EU office. “The beauty of all this is that it is all based on facts. There are no opinions, there are no hypotheses, everything is based on facts. And the EUTM will make a decision based on facts. “
In March, a company called Herzog Holdings LLC also signaled that it would move to revoke two other Darker Still trademarks, according to a letter from a law firm, Finnegan Europe LLP.
Mr. Ryan asserted that the notice was made in an effort to create influence in the dispute. Mr. Herzog denied that there was any connection between the letter and the Black Irish trademark dispute. It also said that no action had been taken on those other trademarks.
Alexander Klett, a partner at Reed Smith LLP and an EU trademark law expert who is not involved in the case, said such disputes were “quite common” and that Ms Carey’s case was “somewhat stagnant.”
“The only thing you can really do is file a trademark yourself, which she has obviously done,” he said. “But that trademark application has a later filing date and is therefore a weaker right, compared to the old pre-existing trademark of the Irish company.”
Mr. Ryan said that while the dispute had brought his company a headache, it had also brought publicity. “I did a search for Mariah Carey about a week ago,” he said. “In Google image search, for about half an hour, I appeared first. I said, ‘My parents will be proud.’
Ryan said his company’s drink, though not Irish cream liqueur, was also tied to national identity.
“We are literally Irish,” Ryan said. “So we call it Irish because it is predominantly Irish whiskey. And we call it Black Irish because it’s black. The liquid is black. And he’s Irish. “
Ms. Carey’s product is available in the United States, along with the liquor brands of other celebrities, such as actors. George Clooney other Ryan reynolds, the model Kendall jenner and boxer Conor McGregor, who sold his brand of whiskey in March for $ 300 million.