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Painkiller vs. Pusser’s: Rum Company Responds to Critics

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Over the last six days, since we broke the news about LES bar Painkiller losing its name in trademark litigation, bartenders and tiki geeks around the world have weighed in across the web to criticize the legal action and propose a boycott of the British Virgin Islands rum manufacturer that sued.

Last night, the founder and owner of Pusser’s Rum Ltd., Charles Tobias, finally responded.

Tobias published a long statement on Pusser’s website and cross-posted it to a Facebook group called “Bartenders and Cocktailians Against Pusser’s,”which had 730 members as of this morning. In his statement, Tobias defended his decision to seek legal action to protect his two trademarks for the term “Painkiller,” one of which is a cocktail made with Pusser’s rum and the other which is a non-alcoholic cocktail mixer meant to be added to Pusser’s rum for an official “Painkiller” drink. An excerpt:

We’ve been made out to be the bad guys, a giant bully towering over the little guys at PKNY. Nothing could be further from the truth . . . We are a very small company trying desperately to protect our intellectual property on which we believe a chunk of our future depends. The trademarks that we own were acquired fair and square. There was no skulduggery  or stealing from anyone – and to state otherwise is untrue. If some of you believe that trademarking a drink is wrong, then why not work on getting the law changed? . . . Under trademark law, if the trademark owner is aware of a third party’s infringement and does not move to correct it, the trademark is not sustainable if challenged in court . . . Thanks to the trademark law, the little guy does have a chance.  So this is what we sought to protect. This is why we waited more than a year for a positive response from PKNY. Finally, the lawyers said if we waited any longer, we would be jeopardizing our trademark position, and really a good part of what we see as the future of our business.  It was a hard decision, and I hated to take the step. There was no anger or the “let’s get ‘em” mindset, but neither was there any other choice. We have to protect our intellectual property on which we believe so much of our future depends.  We wish [PKNY owners] Giuseppe Gonzalez and Richard Boccato great success with their venture, and hopefully in the near future we will be working with them on the common goal of increasing the success of our two businesses.

Meanwhile, over at the newly christened PKNY tiki bar on Essex Street, it was situation normal this weekend, with gorgeous-looking, delicious-tasting cocktails rolling out from behind the bar and nobody mentioning that rum that starts with P.

The Infante at PKNY. Photo by Jodi Zagoory.
The Missionary's Downfall at PKNY. Photo by Jodi Zagoory
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