The bottle looks cool, the name is pithy, and it’s made right here in DC: Since its
debut this past fall, Green Hat gin has become one of the hippest sips in Washington.
Michael Lowe and his son-in-law,
John Uselton, opened New Columbia Distillers—the District’s first microdistillery—in October in
the Ivy City neighborhood of Northeast. It’s the first time in more than a century
that anyone has distilled spirts within city limits, as
Washingtonian reported in a feature
about the duo last fall. But now Lowe and Uselton are dealing with one of the worst
nightmares of any new business-owner: a legal dispute over their brand.
Green Farms II, a company based in Brooklyn, filed a lawsuit against New Columbia
Distillers in federal court in New Jersey in November claiming that the sale of Green
Hat gin will likely cause confusion with Green Farms’ gin products, sold under the
brand Greenhook Ginsmiths.
As first noted by the
National Law Journal, New Columbia Distillers this week filed its own action in DC federal court. In an
effort to put to rest the assertions made by Green Farms, New Columbia Distillers
is asking the DC court to declare that its trademark for the Green Hat name does not
infringe on the Greenhook Ginsmiths trademark. New Columbia Distillers is not asking
for damages, or for Green Farms to change its name. It just wants the court to determine
that no one’s trademark is being violated.
The Green Hat name is a reference to bootlegger George Cassiday who, during Prohibition,
sold booze to members of Congress while wearing his signature green hat. In a letter
to Green Farms’ attorney, one of New Columbia Distillers’ lawyers points out a number
of other trademarks for names connected to alcoholic drinks that include the word
“green,” such as Green Devil, Green Beast, and Green Spot.
“I haven’t tried it, but I’m sure that Greenhook Ginsmiths makes a very nice gin.
I can tell you from experience that Green Hat’s gin is delicious,” said Venable partner
Damon Wright, the lead attorney representing New Columbia Distillers, in a statement. “Green Hat
hopes the lawsuit can be quickly resolved, so the two companies can simply compete
in the marketplace.”
Green Farms’ attorney,
Jon Fallon, has not yet returned a request for comment. We will update if we hear from him.