Dan Akroyd and Crystal Head Vodka Win Trade Dress Infringement Case

By Joseph Mandour on March 31, 2017

Los Angeles – A Los Angeles California federal jury found in favor of Dan Akroyd’s Skull Vodka Co, Crystal Head, on Wednesday morning. The decision finds rival distilled spirits company, Elements, guilty of trade dress infringement. Both companies sell alcohol in skull shaped bottles.

Globefill, which owns Crystal Head, claimed that its bottle came first, and that the Element’s bottle is a “cheap knockoff.” Wednesday’s decision comes at the end of many years of litigation between the two companies.

Crystal Head Vodka was founded in 2007 by movie and TV star Dan Aykroyd. The Vodka brand quickly grew famous due, in part, to its signature skull shaped bottle. In 2009, Elements created a brand of tequila, called KAH, which is also sold in a skull shaped bottle. However, the KAH brand bottle is significantly more colorful and, according to the bottle maker, is inspired by the Mexican holiday, the Day of the Dead.

Globefill brought its first lawsuit against Elements in 2013, suing for trade dress infringement. However, the court found in favor of Elements. Globefill immediately filed for an appeal, claiming that closing arguments were handled improperly. The Ninth Circuit found that the district judge had erred in not honoring Globefill’s request for retrial. The panel found that closing arguments had referenced evidence that was not presented in the case and had incorrectly claimed that Globefill had deliberately kept documents from the jury.

Key testimony was given at the new trial. Globefill called KAH bottle maker Walter Szymoniak. In his testimony, the artist and bottle maker told how he worked side by side with Kim Brandi, (Elements founder), to improve their existing bottle. At one point, Szymoniak stated that Brandi handed him the Crystal Skull bottle to use as he created the clay cast for KAH’s bottle. Later, according to Szymoniak, Brandi called the artist and admitted that she lied under oath.

Element’s trademark attorney defended the company’s right to the bottle. He claimed that both products had been on the market for seven years, and there were no issues since the bottles were unique enough to avoid any likelihood for confusion. The California Federal court reached its decision on the morning of March 30.

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