Federal Court judges wine by its label


In Sociedad Agricola Santa Teresa Ltda v Vina Leyda Limitada (2007 FC 1301, December 12 2007), the Federal Court has considered what constitutes a place of origin for wine such that the name of this place cannot be registered as a trademark.

In 2001 Vina Leyda Limitada, a wine producer from Chile, applied to register the trademark LEYDA for wine. Leyda is a region of Chile where wine was produced at the time the application was filed. In 2002 the Chilean Ministry of Agriculture accepted Valle de Leyda (Spanish for 'Leyda Valley') as an appellation of origin.

Two wine producers from the Leyda Valley in Chile opposed the application at the Trademarks Office Opposition Board on the grounds that it was descriptive. The hearing officer found that there was insufficient evidence demonstrating that the average Canadian consumer would perceive the proposed trademark as the place of origin of the wine. The opponents appealed to the Federal Court.

The Federal Court, sympathetic to all wine producers from the Leyda Valley, indicated that the knowledge - or lack thereof - of the average Canadian consumer as to the fact that Leyda is a wine-producing region in Chile was not relevant in this case. The issue was whether Leyda is a place of origin for wine. Finding that it was, the court denied registration of the trademark LEYDA.

As the court stated, "geography is one of the important considerations in assessing whether one should try a new wine". However, this may not be a key factor in respect to other consumer goods. Therefore, it will be interesting to see how this decision may be applied in the fullness of time.

Toni Polson Ashton, Sim & McBurney, Toronto

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