It’s barely a fortnight since Mariah Carey announced she was launching her own Irish cream range – Black Irish – but the legal battle over the brand is already escalating.
The brand’s name pays tribute to Carey’s mixed heritage – her mother, Patricia Hickey, had Irish parents, and her father, Alfred Carey, had a black Venezuelan background.
The liqueur comes in three flavours: Original, White Chocolate and Salted Caramel. It’s produced in Ireland and has gone on sale in 33 states in the US.
However, filings in the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) have revealed the music star is embroiled in a year-long battle for the trademark Black Irish, against a group of well-known Irish drinks entrepreneurs = Darker Still Spirits – who already hold the trademark in the EU.
The Currency notes: “A representative of Carey is believed to have approached the Irish company early on to try and acquire the Black Irish trademark in the European Union, but it did not secure a deal.”
Darker Still Spirits has a whiskey and stout spirit drink called Black Irish, which launched in June 2020. The company said it legally filed the brand name in 2015.
Carey’s legal team want the company forfeit the trademark on the basis that it had “not been put to genuine use within a continuous period of five years” from its original filing in July 2015. However, lawyers for Darker Still Spirits have evidence to the contrary, including design work completed in 2019 and initial test sales in Temple Bar.
David Phelan, director of Darker Still Spirits, isn’t going down without a fight. He’s mimicked Mariah’s publicity shot for Black Irish (above) and said: “Myself and my partners in Darker Still are collective veterans of the Irish drinks industry, and it is unprecedented that we are defending our position against a US company, within an Irish industry that we have helped support for over 30 years.”
Phelan also alleged that Carey’s team is claiming trademark rights to other products in Darker Still Spirits’ portfolio, a move he argued was “a tactic to undermine our wider businesses”.
Darker Still Spirits also wants “to ascertain how a ‘geographic indicator’ Irish cream liqueur could have been produced on the island of Ireland without the relevant EU trademark permissions”.
Phelan added: “What is certain is that we will continue fighting any trademark objection whilst also engaging with the European Commission in regards to specific legalities surrounding Irish cream production. This will provide clarity on the matter and resolve an unfortunate situation not of our making.”
Mariah Carey enters the booming Irish cream market