Dan Aykroyd’s Crystal Head Vodka Wins Lawsuit

Published on: 2017/04/03 - in News

Crystal head Vodka with judge's gavel

Last week, Dan Aykroyd’s Crystal Head Vodka won its court case against a tequila company that was also distributing its product in skull-shaped bottles. (Updates below)

In the federal trademark dispute held in Los Angeles, Globefill Inc. – the makers of Crystal Head Vodka and majority owned by Kingston area resident, Dan Aykroyd – claimed Kah Tequila bottles were a ‘cheap knockoff’ of the Crystal Head design.

After deliberating for under 4 hours, the eight-person jury unanimously found in favour of Globefill Inc., agreeing that the defendant Elements Spirits Inc. had intentionally modeled its ‘Day of the Dead’ inspired skull-shaped bottles after Crystal head vodka bottles.

KAH Tequila
One of the skull-shaped KAH Tequila bottle designs

This similarity could confuse shoppers into thinking Kah Tequila was made by or affiliated with Crystal Head.

The issue with product confusion is additionally problematic in this country, where Aykroyd – along with Kingston attorney Paul Fay and North York’s David Brown, also of Globefill Inc. – owns Alloy Brands Inc., became the Canadian distributor of Patron Tequila in 2005.

Last minute testimony by a rebuttal witness likely sealed the deal, when he claimed Elements Spirits Inc. founder Kimi Brandi had him make a plaster cast of a Crystal Head bottle to base her own design on.

According to Law360, U.S. District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall will decide what profits Elements Spirits Inc. will have to give up to Globefill Inc. as well as imposing any permanent injunction against Elements and Kah Tequila.

Law360 also reported Akyroyd praised the work of his attorney, David Berg of Berg & Androphy – who is a long time friend of Crystal Head co-founder John Alexander – and his entire trial team.

Michael M. Fay, whose firm represents Crystal Head, told MyNewsLA that the court decision was a great victory for Globefill and for Dan Aykroyd, adding “The company has a very distinctive trade dress — the skull-shaped bottle — and the jury said that trade dress should be protected.”

Crystal Head Vodka was launched by Dan Aykroyd and artist John Alexander in 2007. The skull bottle Kah Tequila appeared in stores in 2010 and Globefill Inc. filed a lawsuit that same year.

In 2011, the LCBO finally allowed Crystal Head Vodka to be sold in Ontario, after initially being banned from the province due to the shape of its bottle. It also appears that up until at least 2011, Crystal Head bottles featured a sticker for “Globefill Inc” which listed an Alfred Street address in Kingston.

You can learn more about Crystal Head Vodka at its website, on Facebook, or by following them on Twitter.

April 19, 2017 UPDATE:

According to an excerpt from Law360:

(Elements Spirits Inc.) has objected to an injunction bid by comedy legend Dan Aykroyd’s own liquor brand, saying a worldwide sales ban is over the top.

Elements Spirits Inc. … told the California federal court in its memorandum opposing a permanent injunction that Aykroyd’s Crystal Head Vodka brand can’t succeed in blocking sales of the product overseas because there’s no legal footing for the move.

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April 24, 2017 UPDATE:

According to Law360:

Dan Aykroyd’s liquor brand on Friday asked that a rival found liable for infringing the brand’s skull-shaped bottle designs pay $4.3 million in attorneys’ fees and costs after a second jury trial, saying that the competitor’s defense was a “fabrication” and that its founder blatantly lied under oath.

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June 14, 2017 UPDATE:

According to Law 360, on June 13 a California federal judge tentatively ruled that the Crystal Head Vodka company is entitled to a sales ban in the United States and $870,000 in disgorged profits from Elements Spirits Inc.. CHV had requested a worldwide ban and $13 million.

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March 13, 2019 UPDATE:

Globefill Inc.’s court win was upheld by the Ninth Circuit on March 12.  It was also determined that Globefill failed to prove it was entitled to additional damages – above the original judgement of $871,536.86 for the infringement – or to attorneys’ fees.

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Image compilation: George Hodan (gavel and books) (pd)