AuthorOnochie, Emmanuel
PositionIntellectual property
  1. INTRODUCTION A. Historical Context B. Who Was Nathan "Nearest" Green? II. NATURE OF GREEN'S CONTRIBUTION A. Jack Daniel's Distillery's First Master Distiller III. IP EVALUATION OF GREEN'S CONTRIBUTION A. Overview of Calculations B. Discount Cash Flow ("DCF") Method 1. Calculating Expected Cash Flow ("CF") 2. Increased Risk-Adjusted Discount Rate IV. GENERATIONAL WEALTH INEQUALITIES V. CONCLUSION I. INTRODUCTION

    "I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow." (1)


    "[U]ntil the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter." (2)


    Intelligence is man's greatest strength. Historically, significant intellectual contributions have come from the voiceless. American slavery brought about an institutional exploitation of ideas and intellectual contributions in a systematic effort to dehumanize and control a group of people. (3) The story of Nathan Green, the man responsible for teaching Jack Daniel how to make whiskey, is a story that illustrates the impact that these institutional exploitations have had on the transfer of generational wealth along racial lines.

    1. Historical Context

      In 1858, the Attorney General issued an opinion that denied a slave owner's patent application for a machine that was invented by a slave. (4) The application was denied because a slave was not considered a person, and the slave owner was not the true inventor; thus, neither of them had legal grounds to take the required patent oath. (5) The Attorney General also denied another patent application by a free African American because, under Dred Scott, he was not a citizen of the United States. (6) Ultimately, African Americans were not afforded any protections for the fruits of their intellectual labor.

    2. Who Was Nathan "Nearest" Green?

      Nathan "Nearest" Green was born into slavery circa 1820. (7) As a young man, Green was owned by a firm called Landis and Green. (8) Green was then rented to Dan Call, a local wealthy preacher and distiller. (9) Green began to learn the art of distilling whiskey at Call's distillery. (10) Call introduced Green to a young Jack Daniel, and Green was tasked with teaching Daniel how to make whiskey. (11) In 1866, Daniel took over Call's distillery, and Green continued to work with Daniel as he established the first registered distillery in the country. (12) Green ultimately became the first Master Distiller in Jack Daniel's Distillery's history, and there is no record showing that Daniel ever actually owned Green. (13)


    This article is not meant to be an exact measurement of how much Nathan Green would be entitled to for his contribution to Jack Daniel's Whiskey. Such a calculation would prove too difficult, if not impossible, because the passage of time presents too many unknown variables. Instead, this article places a rough quantitative estimate on the value of Green's knowledge if he was afforded the same opportunities as his white counterparts. First, this article will analyze the significance of Green's contribution to Jack Daniel's Whiskey. Second, the Discount Cash Flow ("DCF") Method will be used to place a monetary value on Green's knowledge of whiskey. Finally, this article uses Nathan Green's story to discuss how a lack of opportunity and intellectual property protection led to an inequality in generational wealth across racial lines.

    1. Jack Daniel's Distillery's First Master Distiller

    It is difficult to overstate Nathan Green's importance to Jack Daniel's Whiskey. Without Green, Jack Daniel's Whiskey may not be as good, or, worse, Daniel may have never even learned how to make whiskey. The quality of the whiskey Green helped create, Jack Daniel's Whiskey, was validated when in 1904, the Jack Daniel's brand exploded onto the mainstream by winning a gold medal at the World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. (14) Fawn Weaver, an author and researcher, was instrumental in piecing together the Nathan Green story. (15) Fawn Weaver's hard work led Brown-Forman, the company that now owns the Jack Daniel's Distillery, to retroactively acknowledge Green's importance. (16) Initially, Brown-Forman improperly named Jack Daniel its first Master Distiller, but Green is now recognized as the first Master Distiller in Brown-Forman's official history. (17)

    The Jack Daniel's Distillery website describes a Master Distiller as a person "responsible for overseeing the entire whiskey-making process, but also becomes the face of Jack Daniel's through advertising and promotional events held worldwide." (18) As the first Master Distiller, and person responsible for teaching Daniel the art of whiskey making, some of Green's methods and practices are likely still utilized.

    Jack Daniel was very particular about his whiskey. The record shows that "[Daniel] used only the iron-free cave spring water on his property and the finest grains, mellowed his whiskey by filtering it through 10 feet of sugar maple charcoal, and changed the charcoal out more often to produce a more consistent and better whiskey." (19) Many credit this unique process as being responsible for the taste that millions of Jack Daniel's Whiskey drinkers have grown to love. Therefore, because Green taught Daniel how to make whiskey, he is likely largely responsible for the taste enjoyed by millions of Jack Daniel's Whiskey drinkers for a century and a half.


    1. Overview of Calculations

      An Intellectual Property ("IP") is typically evaluated before it is sold. Here, the asset is not up for...

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