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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Sean Hennessy returns fire after getting a threatening letter from cognac brand

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Lee Steele
Lee Steele
Lee Steele is the founding director of Roof Cat Media and has published Yucatán Magazine and other titles since 2012. Sign up for our weekly newsletters, so our best stories will appear in your inbox every Monday.
Hennessy’s Irish Pub in Merida, Yucatán. Photo: Facebook

No matter what the cognac maker’s lawyer says, Sean Hennessy is not changing the name of the pub he built in Mérida 11 years ago.

That’s his response to a cease-and-desist letter Hennessy reported receiving from lawyers in Mexico City.

That lawyer apparently doesn’t know Sean Hennessy very well.

“Some days are more interesting than others and some idiocies are greater than others,” Hennessy (if we’re allowed to still call him that) wrote on social media after receiving the nastygram.

“It is interesting to note that my little pub in the wilderness of Mérida has caught the eyes of a big city law firm in Mexico City. I feel a little like poor Mr. McDonald in the outer Hebrides that lost his burger joint to Ronald the clown.”

Hennessy shared his thoughtful response to the cognac maker’s legal team:

Dear Sirs,

I am not sure of your command of the English language nor the Irish tradition but allow me to explain. My name is Sean Hennessy and I own an Irish Pub in Merida called Hennessy’s Irish Pub. A custom in Ireland is to name the pub after the family name of the owner. Apostrophe-S denotes possession.

Richard Hennessy left Ireland with the Wild Geese in and around 1743 and ended up settling in France and producing Cognac. He was quite good at it and it became known as Hennessy Cognac, probably first known as Hennessy’s Cognac until he dropped the s.

So if Mr. Lopez has a car hire business it is known as Lopez’s Car Hire and Mr. Martinez has Martinez’s Supermarket. I think you get the point, I own the pub and I am using my name to define it in much the same way my ancestor Richard did to define his cognac. He went on to become a worldwide brand which I am sure is very profitable. Should I share in those profits as it is our family name and send a cease and desist until I receive some of the profits? Probably not worth my time as it just makes lawyers rich out of doing or producing nothing.

Hennessy also pointed out that a Google search will reveal many pubs of the same or similar name all over the world. Anyone who’s tried to tag the correct Hennessy’s on Facebook knows that all too well.

A Google search also revealed no evidence that any other pub named Hennessy’s is being threatened by Hennessy Cognac.

“I don’t see them getting cease and desist demands. The reason is that the law firms already worked out that it was too frivolous and without merit. You can thank me later for saving you the time to reach the conclusion that in this incident your case of trademark infringement has no substance or precedence,” Hennessy’s letter continues.

Sean Hennessy in 1998, when he appeared in a commercial for Hennessy Cognac. Photo: YouTube / Des Mullan

Here’s the kicker. Sean Hennessy was a Hennessy model in 1998. You can see his work right here. In this campaign, he’s depicted escaping a high-pressure corporate board room in big-city Dublin, spending some time in nature, and then enjoying time with friends at a country bar — Wicklow we believe — over a snifter.

The commercial’s tagline is “Time is too precious to waste,” which is what Hennessy says about arguing over who gets to use the name Hennessy.

Trademark claims are nothing new. Recently, Starbucks did the same to indie coffee shops selling “frappuccinos.

A week ago, another coffee shop chain in Seattle got sued by the Space Needle’s management for using something resembling their branding on their coffee cups.

Even drag queens, many of whom paraded past Hennessy’s on Saturday, can get snagged. Lawyers from Nine West are after performer Nina West, claiming that the moniker infringes on its fashion brand.

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