Distillery University of Kentucky Clash Over Use of Word ‘Kentucky’

The owners of Kentucky Mist distillery say University of Kentucky attorneys have sent them a letter asserting the school owns the rights to the word “Kentucky,” at least on clothing.

The Mountain Eagle reports the certified letter from Lexington attorney Michael Hargis asks the distillery to abandon efforts to trademark the Kentucky Mist name and logo design for T-shirts or other clothing.

“It is our present position that Kentucky Mist Moonshine Inc.’s use of the mark `Kentucky Mist Moonshine’ to identify articles of clothing is likely to cause deception, confusion and mistake as to Kentucky Mist Moonshine Inc.’s affiliation, connection or association with the University,” the letter states. “If Kentucky Mist Moonshine is willing to honor our request, we will consider the matter closed.”

According to the letter, the University of Kentucky is prepared to oppose the trademark application and “will consider further action as it deems necessary.”

Kentucky Mist co-owner Colin Fultz said Kentucky Mist products and logos look nothing like the university’s logos.

“I don’t know what they’re trying to do,” Fultz said.

University spokesman Jay Blanton said UK didn’t tell the distiller it couldn’t use the word “Kentucky” in the business name or object to registering the logo for its product in the alcoholic beverage class but only asked that the logo not be registered in the clothing class.

“The university owns a federal registration for the mark KENTUCKY which it has used on athletic uniforms and fan apparel for decades,” Blanton said in an email response to The Associated Press on Wednesday. “A trademark owner is obligated to monitor its marks in order to prevent a weakening or a loss of rights.”

Fultz said he expects the dispute will result in a big legal bill for the distillery.

“Our attorney said we have to respond to it,” Fultz said of the letter.

Asked if he thought anyone could confuse Kentucky Mist products with the University of Kentucky or its athletic teams, Fultz said, “No, I don’t think so” before adding the distillery does offer a dark blue-colored Koozie drink cooler.

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