'Ky. Bourbon Trail' trademark in dispute

LOUISVILLE — Buffalo Trace and Tom Moore distilleries are near the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, but if the Kentucky Distillers' Association gets its way, they won't be able to promote the location.

The association claims in a lawsuit that New Orleans-based Sazerac is violating the trademarks on the phrase "Kentucky Bourbon Trail" and logos by using similar phrases and designs in promoting two Central Kentucky distilleries.

The association sued Sazerac in U.S. District Court in Louisville on Monday asking a judge to halt Sazerac's use of the phrase and requests for trademarks on similar phrases.

The distillers' association holds four trademarks on "Kentucky Bourbon Trail" and logo designs, and uses them in promotional materials.

Sazerac owns Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort and Tom Moore Distillery in Bardstown, which makes the bourbon brand 1792 Ridgemont Reserve.

Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers' Association, said in a statement that if Sazerac is allowed to use the "Bourbon Trail" phrase, the association's trademark would be worthless.

"Any business — including any other state — could claim that they were part of the Bourbon Trail, or create their own Bourbon Trail that would conflict and confuse visitors," Gregory said.

A message left for Sazerac spokeswoman Angela Traver was not immediately returned Monday.

The dispute started in summer 2009, when Sazerac applied for a trademark and copyright on the phrase "Buffalo Trace Distillery on the Bourbon Trail" and "Tom Moore Distillery on the Bourbon Trail."

The distillers' association claims those proposed trademarks violate the existing trademarks related to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, a cluster of distilleries in Central Kentucky.

Sazerac was once a member of the association but resigned in January after being unable to settle the dispute over the trademarks.

In an e-mail dated Feb. 1 and attached to the lawsuit, Sazerac president Mark Brown said the company doesn't plan to violate the association's trademarks.

"However, we will continue to use the public domain phrases 'the Bourbon Trail' and 'the Trail' to describe the location of our Buffalo Trace and Tom Moore distilleries as permitted by federal trademark law," Brown wrote.

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail was created to help draw tourists to the eight featured distilleries, now down to six: Jim Beam, Maker's Mark, Wild Turkey, Woodford Reserve, Four Roses and Heaven Hill distilleries.