CJEU on conditions of using “Champagne” in the name of a product that only contains a certain percentage of it
On 20 December 2017, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) gave its opinion on the “Champagner Sorbet” case. The Court stated the conditions of using the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) for “Champagne” on a product which only contained 12% of Champagne.
Background of the case:
In 2012, Aldi Süd Dienstleistungs-GmbH & Co. OHG, a German discounter supermarket chain, had started to sell a frozen product under the name “Champagner Sorbet” which contained 12% of Champagne. An association of champagne producers, Comité Inteprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIPV), brought proceedings before the Regional Court in Munich I. against this use. The plaintiff requested an injunction prohibiting Aldi from further usage of the PDO “Champagne” for the sorbet products. CIPV claimed the infringement of the PDO for exploitation of the reputation, misuse, false and misleading indication concerning such PDO on the basis of Article 118m of Regulation No 1234/2007 and Article 103 of Regulation No 1308/2013.
The plaintiff, CIPV, succeeded in the first instance. However, the second instance, the Higher Regional Court in Munich came to the opposite conclusion and dismissed the application of CIPV. The appeal court stated that the conditions for declaring infringement were not fulfilled as Aldi has a “legitimate interest in using the name “Champagner Sorbet” to refer to a food product known to the public under that name and in which champagne was an essential ingredient”. On that account there was no misleading indication.
CIPV then lodged an appeal on a point of law before the Federal Court of Justice (BGH). The BGH stayed the proceedings and referred the case to the CJEU for a preliminary ruling. The CJEU had to clarify the conditions under which it would be in compliance with the law for the producer to use the PDO term Champagne for products that are not Champagne but only contain some percentage of it.
The CJEU held that an unlawful exploitation is to be understood as usage of the protected PDO in order to take an undue advantage of its reputation. The Court then stated that the product can only use the PDO Champagne in its name when two conditions are fulfilled. Firstly, the product has to really contain Champagne and secondly, the taste of the product has to be attributable to Champagne as one of its essential features. CJEU then stressed that although the quantity of Champagne in the sorbet might be significant; in itself it is not determinative enough to state an undue advantage. Therefore, the consideration has to always depend on the evidence at hand.
Now, the case is back at the BGH which has to decide whether Aldi fulfilled all above mentioned requirements stated by CJEU for a lawful usage of the name “Champagner Sorbet”.
For more information read the whole CJEU decision here.
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