No infringement found in wine label dispute
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The Maritime and Commercial Court has ruled in Udesen Danmark v Excellent Wine Danmark A/S (Case V-125-07, May 13 2009).
Since 2001 Udesen Danmark has manufactured and sold wine in bottles with pewter labels that describe an event, activity or special occasion. It also manufactures bottles with personalized labels. All of its labels bear the manufacturer's UD logo, which is framed by two rearing horses. Among the wines sold are wines labelled 'Congratulations', 'Hunter Selection' and 'Golf Selection'.
In 2007 Excellent Wine Danmark A/S began selling wine in bottles with pewter labels reading 'Hunter's Choice', 'Congratulations' and 'Golfer's Reserve'. Udesen claimed that by selling wines with pewter labels that referred to the subjects of hunting, golf and special occasions, Excellent Wine was in violation of Udesen's rights under the copyright, trademark and marketing legislation. Udesen obtained an injunction against Excellent Wine.
However, the Maritime and Commercial Court subsequently found in favour of Excellent Wine. The court held that the motifs on the labels of Udesen's wine appeared as simple drawings in no particular style, together with a simple description of the subject. The court claimed that the design of the labels did not meet the minimum standards for protection under Section 1 of the Copyright Act.
Further, the use of pewter labels was not unique to Udesen's wines and thus did not give the labels distinctive character. The matching label on the back of the bottle and the black wrapping on the bottle neck had to be considered as standard choices of decoration in relation to the look of the label on the front of the bottle. Excellent Wine's bottles, which bore the titles 'Golfer's Reserve', 'Congratulations' and 'Hunter's Choice', had pewter labels which described the same subjects, but the motifs differed significantly in style and content. Therefore, neither the bottles as a whole nor the labels could be considered to have the distinctiveness that is a condition precedent to protection as a trademark or business sign.
The court concluded that Excellent Wine's sale of the wines was not contrary to Section 4 of the Trademarks Act or Section 1 of the Marketing Practices Act. Thus, the court held that whether Excellent Wine was familiar with Udesen's wines when it marketed its products to the same customers was irrelevant.
Udesen was ordered to pay Dkr60,000 in costs and the injunction was revoked.
Mads Marstrand-Jorgensen, Norsker & Co, Copenhagen
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