Hotel complex wins three-year legal fight with historic distillery

The Tomatin distillery argued the new firm's name might 'confuse' visitors if the development went ahead under its current title.

Hotel and retail complex wins three-year legal fight with historic whisky distillery Tomatin trading company

A company looking to build a hotel and retail complex has won a David versus Goliath tradename battle against a Highland whisky distillery.

The Tomatin Trading Company emerged victorious from a three-year civil legal fight to use the village’s name for business purposes.

The nearby Tomatin Distillery ultimately delayed construction in a fierce argument over the newer company’s title, issuing an “intellectual property” challenge at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

The long established and now Japanese-owned whisky producer objected on the grounds the name might confuse tourists and deter them from visiting its own visitor centre.

It did not object to the development itself but argued that Tomatin was “inherently associated” with its brand.

The distillery lost its initial court challenge but later appealed. That appeal has now been dismissed by the court.

Delivering its ruling, Lord Woolman stated: “There is no warrant for the distillery to have a monopoly on the use of ‘Tomatin’.”

William Frame of Tomatin Trading Company said: “I’m mightily relieved that the nightmare seems to be over. It’s been a tough time for my colleagues and my family. All we’re trying to do is honest business and get our development started.

“When you’re trying to raise finance in the property sector, legal cases at Scotland’s highest business court don’t make for good reading on those who are keen and wanting to invest.

“We did try to find a resolution. That was utterly rebuffed and kicked into the long grass. We were told we could quite simply make this go away by changing the name.

“That would have made it difficult for us to market, to say who we are, and to look to build the business with confidence.”

He added: “The Highlands, from my observations, have never been busier when it comes to tourism. Never has the offering been better and we will be adding to that.”

The company has planning approval for a £12million development featuring a 99-bedroom hotel, 200-seat restaurant, four retail units, filling station and a farm shop.

The construction work is expected to take about 18 months.

A spokeswoman for Tomatin Distillery, said: “Whilst we are disappointed that Lord Woolman has upheld the original ruling regarding trademark infringement, we are delighted that the judgement regarding our trademark registrations has been overturned.

“We are pleased to now be able to draw a line under the matter and, as ever, remain committed to creating a thriving community here in Tomatin.”

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