Restaurant wins right to use Champagneria name

The Oslo District Court has issued its decision in a dispute over the name of a restaurant (Case 08-016631 TVI-OTIR/02, May 26 2008).
The case involved Oslo-based restaurant Champagneria on the one hand, and the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin Champagne (an organization of winegrowers in the Champagne region) and the Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité (a French governmental agency) on the other. The decision was made in light of Article 22 of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) on the protection of geographical indications.
The restaurant Champagneria opened in 2005 with a business idea based on champagne and sparkling wine. However, certain French trade organizations alleged that use of the name Champagneria:
  • weakened the geographical indication ‘Champagne’; and
  • constituted unfair competition.
There is a distinction between geographical indications (eg, ‘Norwegian honey’) and French appellations of origin - designations that relate to products with distinct geographical conditional qualities or characteristics linked to the environment of a specific geographical location. Champagne is a protected appellation of origin in France and specific regulations determine which sparkling wines may use this name. Since Champagneria sold other sparkling wines, the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin Champagne and the Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité alleged that use of the name Champagneria was misleading.  
The Oslo District Court found that there was no breach of the regulations against unfair competition and that use of the name Champagneria was not misleading. The court emphasized that the name Champagneria indicated that the restaurant sold champagne. However, the restaurant did not have to sell only champagne in order to avoid confusion among consumers. The fact that champagne was part of the total sales (15%) was held to be sufficient.
In addition, the court found that there was no likelihood of confusion between the names Champagne and Champagneria. It referred to a Norwegian Supreme Court’s decision in which the latter held that the mark MOZELL was distinctive, despite its similarity to the geographical indication ‘Mosel’ for German wine.
Finally, the Oslo District Court stressed that Champagneria’s business idea promoted champagne in Norway, instead of weakening the geographical indication. Furthermore, the restaurant distinguished between champagne and other sparkling wines in its marketing material, which contributed to promoting champagne as a higher quality wine.
Therefore, the restaurant was allowed to continue using its name, despite the protection afforded to geographical indications under the TRIPS Agreement. The decision is not legally binding and the final outcome remains to be seen.
Felix Reimers and Siw Lyséll Benjaminsen, Advokatfirmaet Grette DA, Oslo

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