Why Tequila 512 Is Suing Kendall Jenner's 818 Tequila

Kendall Jenner entered the tequila market by way of her spirit brand, 818 Tequila. According to the company's website, the brand takes its numerical name from North Los Angeles' 818 area code, while claiming to partner with farms in Jalisco, Mexico. This brand stirred up some controversy back in 2021 when some claimed that Jenner appropriated Mexican culture in an advertisement by dressing up in a Mexican outfit and hairstyle, but lacking any Mexican ancestry, per Elle. Critics declared Jenner wrongfully capitalized on local culture by playing into stereotypes through her outfit and the sepia depiction of rural Mexico.

This controversy didn't stop 818 Tequila's success. The Spirit Business reported that Jenner's company sold their entire supply of tequila hours after going on the market, and easily exceeded their business expectations. The president and operating officer of the spirit brand even went on record, saying, "We're actually tracking to be one of the most successful spirits launches, not even Tequila launches." This success hasn't come without obstacles, and now, Tequila 512 has 818 Tequila in its sights.

Tequila 512's legal claims

According to Today, Tequila 512 has targeted 818 Tequila in a lawsuit over "trademark infringement, false designation of origin and unfair competition." Tequila 512, which came about in 2015, claims that Jenner's company copied their logo and branding to the point where Kim Kardashian's mobile game even used an image of Tequila 512's brand to promote 818 Tequila. E! News reports that 818 Tequila has responded to these allegations and defended their stance. A spokesperson for the company has come forward, saying, "We are reviewing the complaint and believe the allegations are without merit." The defendants have not elaborated further and the ball now appears to be in their court.

The lawsuit has the potential to stir up the appropriation controversy again. Some have noted that the bottles of 818 Tequila also feature "grammatically incorrect Spanish." Tequila 512's CEO and chairman Nick Matzorkis claimed that Tequila 818 needs to create their own branding, and said, "It goes beyond just lost sales, it's about the long term dilution of our unique recognizable brand identity that they decided to mimic." If Tequila 818 stirs up enough controversy over playing up Mexican stereotypes through its spirit's marketing, the tequila company might just develop its own brand of offensive imagery to help it stand apart from other competitors.