In July, I introduced readers to Brian Kenner, an orchard owner working to open a cider and perry company called Julian CiderWorks in the community of the same name. When reporting on this, I wondered if the business’ name was too close to that of already established operation, Julian Hard Cider. Kenner wondered the same thing, and contacted JHC to request authorization to use the words “Julian” and “hard cider” in arrangements other than “Julian Hard Cider”. JHC’s response came in the form a cease-and-desist letter demanding that Kenner take down the Julian CiderWorks website as well as any and all infringing materials from search engine-sponsored links, and agree in writing to stop all marketing, advertising, and promotion using its current moniker.
It’s unfortunate, but something pretty much anybody could have seen coming. I try as little as possible to think about anything even remotely legal and this still popped into my head. Even Kenner knew enough that he felt compelled to write to JHC. Still, it’s a tad unfortunate that a company that will make cider from fruit grown exclusively in Julian at a facility also located within the town’s limits is being prohibited from doing so. Especially considering the significance of apples to Julian’s history, lore, and tourist appeal, and the fact JHC does not produce its cider in Julian and uses very little fruit grown there. According to the lawsuit, a source from within the company reports that more than 90% of the fruit used to make JHC cider comes from concentrate.
Regardless, Kenner is forfeiting Julian CiderWorks and shifting the organization of his future interest, which will operate under the new handle, Transcendent. His business will be a founding member of a three-company consortium of Julian-based cider makers. Stan Sisson, who was formerly going to head cider production for Kenner’s company, will now have his own cider business called Spotted Tongue. He and fellow cider-maker Bill Storum will share Kenner’s property when getting started, and once they are all up-and-running, Storum will move his cidery to an area near his property.
Feeling JHC’s name is generic and attempts to control rather than foster a broader and more competitive market, Kenner has filed a lawsuit against the company’s ownership. He is hopeful that JHC will be forced to relinquish its grip on the registered name so that his consortium can operate under the collective title of Julian CiderWorks. In his opinion, nobody should “own” the name of a town, particularly when it comes to the manufacture of a product so synonymous with that locale. He says legal research dictates that a company cannot lay claim to a region’s name and the name of a generic product to the point where others in said region producing a similar product are not allowed to refer to their goods using the regional name or base name of the product. Especially when the prohibiting company does not manufacture their product within the region they lay claim to. At press time, JHC had been served and Kenner was awaiting the company’s formal reply.