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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Smirnov Sues Smirnoff for $1Bln




WILMINGTON, Delaware -- The great-grandson of the original distiller of Smirnoff vodka is seeking over $1 billion in damages in his long-running trademark battle with Heublein Inc. and its successor, a unit of Diageo PLC, court documents said.


The Russian plaintiffs have asked for $180 million in compensatory "reasonable royalty damages ... and nearly $1 billion through an accounting of [Heublein's U.S.] profits" since it began using the Smirnoff label in 1939, the papers said. The damages are based on Heublein's alleged 60-year violation of the Smirnoff trademark under the Lanham Act.


The U.S. battle was joined in 1995, when Boris Smirnov - head of the company Joint Stock Society Trade House of Peter (Pyotr) Smirnoff's Descendants in Moscow and Pyotr's great-grandson - sued Heublein, the predecessor of Diageo subsidiary United Distillers & Vintners North America Inc., in U.S. District Court in Delaware.


The suit seeks to enjoin United Distillers from claiming that it owns the trademark, label and recipes for the vodka originated by Pyotr Smirnov in 1860 and later endorsed by Russia's tsar.


United Distillers countered by saying it bought the rights for $14,000 in 1939 from a Russian ?migr? named Rudolph Kunett, who in 1933 paid 54,000 French francs to buy them from Pyotr's son Vladimir. The Joint Stock Society claims the sale was invalid because Vladimir was bought out of the business in 1905.