A California federal court has dismissed a putative class action against Maker’s Mark Distillery, Inc. alleging that its whiskey is mislabeled as “handmade” because it uses machines to produce the product. Nowrouzi v. Maker’s Mark Distillery, Inc., No. 14-2885 (S.D. Cal., order entered July 27, 2015). Additional information about the complaint appears in Issue 548 of this Update.
The court first denied the distillery’s motion to dismiss on safe harbor grounds, finding that the record is unclear as to whether “handmade” claims fall within the purview of the Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The decision then turned to whether the public would likely be deceived by the “handmade” label. Maker’s Mark cited a May 2015 decision in a similar lawsuit finding that a reasonable person would understand that “handmade” is not meant to indicate that substantial equipment was not used in production, and the court found the reasoning persuasive. “This Court finds that ‘handmade’ cannot reasonably be interpreted as meaning literally by hand nor that a reasonable consumer would understand the term to mean no equipment or automated process was used to manufacture the whisky,” the court held. Details of the previous dismissal appear in Issue 564 of this Update.