Maker's Mark, an American bourbon company, won a court battle today over its trademark dripping red wax seal.
Reuters reports that the battle began when Casa Cuervo, a Mexican liquor company, went for an old-fashioned look by topping bottles of its Reserva tequila with dripping red wax. This began in 1991, and those bottles didn't enter U.S. stores in 2001. Maker's Mark sued Cuervo over rights to the seal in 2003, and Cuervo dropped the dripping red wax top in 2004.
Still, the Mexican company decided to countersue Maker's Mark. In 2010, a U.S. District Judge in Kentucky ruled in favor of the bourbon company.
Cuervo appealed, but it was to no avail. On Wednesday, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals again ruled in favor of Maker's Mark's right to use dripping red wax exclusively.
Judge Boyce Martin composed a 19-page opinion on his ruling. Distillers compete intensely on flavor, but also through branding and marketing; the history of bourbon, in particular, illustrates why strong branding and differentiation is important in the distilled spirits market, he said.
The first official batch of whiskey to be sold under the name 'Maker's Mark' was made by Bill Samuels in early 1954. After aging for six summers, it was finally ready for market in 1959.
The first bottle was four-fifths of a quart and sold for $6.79 a bottle, according to the Maker's Mark website. Like every single bottle of Maker's Mark to this very day, it was hand-dipped in our signature red wax.
The idea to seal bottles in wax originated with Bill Samuels' wife, Marjorie. She was a collector of antique bottles of cognac, which were traditionally dipped in wax.
Over half a century later, Wednesday's court decision ensures that the iconic red wax seal will continue to represent one of America's most popular bourbon brands.