By Tom Bannister
Scots recovering from Burns Night hangovers received a welcome pick-me-up today with the news that a landmark legal case has been successfully brought against a Chinese fake-Scotch-whiskey seller. The offender, Li Cuihong, was jailed for four years and given a hefty fine after she was caught selling the counterfeit amber liquor in Urumqi in Xinijang province. It is the first time that fake Scotch sellers have been prosecuted.
Mrs Li was caught trying to sell 1,400 bottles that were labelled ‘Scotch whiskey’. She was found guilty not because she was counterfeiting a specific brand, but rather the use of the trademark term ‘Scotch’. This represents a landmark step, and is significant because China represents such a huge and growing market for spirits. In 2010 Scottish business groups secured Chinese assurances that they would give the trademark greater legal protection.
Iain McMillan from business lobbying organisation CBI Scotland, told The Scotsman that the Xinjiang prosecution was a victory for intellectual property rights:
“Businesses in the UK – not just Scotland, but UK-wide – have had concerns for a long time about the security of intellectual property and brands in China, So the fact that the Chinese authorities are dealing with cases such as this, where other products are masquerading as Scotch, is a welcome development.”
“China is a large and growing market for Scotch whisky. It is very important that the Scotch whisky brand is fully protected and, where the law is contravened, the courts take it very seriously and deal with it.”
The problem of counterfeit spirits however is endemic to China where in every bar there is the opportunity to savour fake whiskeys with mellow aromas of nail polish-remover and gutsy fake vodkas with subtle hints of blindness-inducing methanol. The Xinjiang case represents an important step in regulating the industry, but much remains to be done.
[via] The Scotsman