Product containing 12% of Champagne may be called 'Champagner Sorbet'

Germany

The Munich Appeal Court has held that a frozen product containing 12% of Champagne could be called ‘Champagner Sorbet’ (October 16 2014).

The Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) - the organisation grouping the actors of the Champagne production and trade - sued Aldi Süd for marketing a product called ‘Champagner Sorbet’, a frozen sorbet product containing 12% of Champagne. Aldi, in turn, gave third-party notice to the producer of the product, Belgian company Galana NV, which intervened on the defendant’s side.

The CIVC justified its complaint by asserting a breach of Article 103 of EU Regulation 1308/2013 (the so-called ‘Common Market Organisation Regulation’). This regulation contains provisions for the protection of designations of origin and geographical indications for products of viticulture. The CIVC argued that the protection of the designation ‘Champagne’ was “absolute” and that deception or unfairness was not a prerequisite for a claim. Aldi and Galana invoked the right to use a correct and non-misleading trade denomination. According to the defendants, the use of ‘Champagne’ for a sorbet containing Champagne was justified.   

In a judgment dated March 18 2014 (Case 33 O 13181/13), the Munich I District Court upheld the complaint. Following an appeal lodged by Galana, on October 16 2014, the Munich Appeal Court reversed the judgment of the district court and dismissed the complaint.  

Although there was no dispute as to the reputation of the designation of origin ‘Champagne’, which enjoys comprehensive protection, the court held that protection was nevertheless not granted abstractly or absolutely. Rather, in order to prohibit the use of the designation ‘Champagne’ for products other than genuine Champagne, unfair exploitation of the designation’s reputation was a prerequisite. Such unfair exploitation was, according to the court, not present in this case; rather, the defendants could invoke a justified interest in the use of the designation ‘Champagner Sorbet’. Claims under the German Unfair Competition Law or Trademark Law, as well as under the 1960 German-French Agreement on Appellations of Origin, were also dismissed based on the same grounds.

Leave was granted to appeal to the Federal Supreme Court. 

Henning Hartwig and Alexander von Mühlendahl, BARDEHLE PAGENBERG, Munich

The authors represented Galana NV in this case

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