Scottish drinks group William Grant & Sons has stressed that its purchase of Sailor Jerry rum was “made in good faith” as it faces a lawsuit from the family of the tattooist who inspired the brand. The spiced rum pays homage to Norman Keith ‘Sailor Jerry’ Collins, a former naval officer who later became a well-known tattoo artist with a unique and distinctive style. Collins, who died in 1973, ran a tattoo shop in Honolulu, Hawaii, for several years.
His widow, Louise Collins, is now suing William Grant & Sons, which bought the Sailor Jerry brand in 2008, for “unauthorised use and misappropriation of Sailor Jerry’s name and persona”. According to Louise Collins, William Grant & Sons “never sought or received permission” from her to use Sailor Jerry’s likeness. “I am appalled to see what these folks have done with Jerry’s name and legacy,” she said. “This was my husband, the father of my children, and no one ever even asked our family for permission to use him in this way.”
Legal representatives of Louise Collins have called the use of Sailor Jerry’s likeness “illegal” and are seeking to “secure a better financial future for his family”. However, Glenfiddich maker William Grant & Sons said the brand was “developed and protected by multiple owners” before its acquisition, and that the group “undertook due diligence, tracing back a number of decades, to ensure the purchase was fair and lawful”.
A spokesperson for the company said: “While we are not able to comment on any pending litigation, William Grant & Sons has and always will hold Norman Collins’ legacy in the highest regard. We have enormous respect for the family of Norman Collins and have no desire to cause upset.” Representatives of William Grant & Sons will meet with Louise Collins and her immediate family in Hawaii later this week to discuss the matter and “fully understand their concerns and needs”.
“The aim of this meeting is to establish a joint approach to ensure that Norman ‘Sailor Jerry’ Collins’ legacy is protected and celebrated,” a statement from William Grant continued. Louise Collins and her family are being represented by Honolulu law firm Davis Levin Livingston.