the spirit of the law

Austin brand takes shots at Kendall Jenner’s tequila for trademark infringement

Austin brand takes shots at Kendall Jenner’s tequila for being copycat

Tequila 512 Austin
Tequila 512 is taking the trademark issues with a grain of salt — and legal action. Tequila 512/Facebook

Austin-based alcohol brand Tequila 512 is shaking up the booze world, accusing Keeping Up With the Kardashians personality Kendall Jenner and her tequila brand of blatantly ripping off Tequila 512.

In a lawsuit filed February 16 in a California federal court, ClipBrands LLC, the seller of Tequila 512, accuses Los Angeles-based K & Soda LLC, which sells 818 Tequila, of trademark infringement, unfair competition, and unfair business practices.

“If [818 Tequila] wants to shoot itself in the foot with its own positioning and marketing — and higher price and reduced distillation — that is up to them, but they cannot be allowed to drag [Tequila 512] down with them,” the suit says.

Labels for bottles of Tequila 512, which launched in 2012, bear distinctive black lettering inside a vertical yellow triangle. The lawsuit alleges that 818 Tequila copied and then tweaked the Tequila 512 labeling, which has been around since 2015. In addition, the lawsuit notes the Tequila 512 name features an Austin area code, and the 818 Tequila name features a Los Angeles area code.

An online search found that a bottle of Tequila 512’s Blanco variety sells for $26.99 at Total Wine & More, while a bottle of 818 Tequila’s Blanco variety sells for $39.99 at the same store.

Here’s an interesting twist: The same distillery in Jalisco, Mexico, produces both brands of tequila. However, 818 Tequila is distilled twice, while Tequila 512 is distilled three times.

“The Kardashian-Jenner family strikes again,” the lawsuit says. “This time Kendall Jenner has associated herself with a new tequila brand, 818 Tequila, that intentionally copies … Tequila 512. The similarities are so striking that this cannot be the result of a coincidence.”

“Comparing the two products, customers would easily believe, incorrectly, that the products are related,” the suit adds.

Tequila 512 bills itself as an award-winning brand.

Austin resident Nick Matzorkis, who helped pioneer the massive online “people search” industry, is chairman and CEO of Tequila 512; he’s also co-founder and co-CEO of the Global Agora venture capital fund, whose portfolio includes Tequila 512.

Shortly after Jenner unveiled her tequila in 2021, Tequila 512 took to social media to point out the similarities between the two brands. At the time, Matzorkis called on Jenner to change the name of the tequila or change the labeling to prevent confusion, or both.

“Tequila 512 will not be taking legal action against Kendall Jenner or her tequila brand, nor are we looking for an apology,” Matzorkis said last year.

Jenner’s 818 Tequila also touts itself as an award-winning brand. A December news release boasts that 818 Tequila was the bestselling new tequila brand in the U.S. last year. As of December, 818 Tequila had shipped more than 1.5 million bottles of tequila.

“We are thrilled to see the growth of 818 Tequila and sales continue to outperform our expectations,” Mike Novy, president and chief operating officer, says in the news release. “The elevated flavor profiles of 818 Tequila were created to introduce a flourishing market to a tequila experience they can savor. Kendall is a strong female voice in the industry, leading a brand that stands for sustainability while also delivering award-winning taste.”

A spokeswoman for 818 Tequila couldn’t be reached for comment.