On May 2, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) published the Judgment in Case C-614/17, opposing the “Fundación Consejo Regulador de la Denominación de Origen Protegida Queso Manchego” (the group in charge of the PDO Queso Manchego) and the company “Industrial Quesera Cuquerella SL and Juan Ramón Cuquerella Montagud”. The latter markets some of its cheese products, made in “La Mancha” region but not following the PDO product’s specification, through labels with figurative elements (a knight similar to the usual depictions of “Don Quixote de La Mancha” and a bony horse and landscapes with windmills and sheep), as well as the words “Quesos Rocinante”.
The group in charge of the PDO Queso Manchego had initiated an action in Spain against the company, considering that the above-mentioned labels (including the figurative elements) constitute an unlawful evocation of the PDO under Regulation 1151/2012. The Supreme Court of Spain, seized of the case, asked the CJEU whether a PDO/PGI may be evoked through the use of figurative signs. This was the occasion for the CJEU to clarify once again the concept of PDO/PGI/GIs evocation in the EU legislation, as found in art. 13.1.b of Regulation (EU) No 1151/2012 (food and agricultural products), and consequently, in art. 103.2.b of Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 (wines) and art. 21.2.b of Regulation (EC) No …/2019 (on the definition, description, presentation and labelling of spirit drinks, the use of the names of spirit drinks in the presentation and labelling of other foodstuffs, the protection of geographical indications for spirit drinks, the use of ethyl alcohol and distillates of agricultural origin in alcoholic beverages, and repealing Regulation (EC) No 110/2008).
The May 2 CJEU ruling is extremely clear and positive for the protection of PDO, PGI and GIs in the EU. The Court found that:
- A registered name may be evoked through the use of figurative signs. Here the CJEU criticizes the restrictive interpretation of the European Commission on this point. It finds that: “as regards the context in which the term ‘evocation’ occurs, it cannot be accepted, as the Commission maintains, that the evocation of a registered name through the use of figurative signs can be examined only in the light of Article 13(1)(c) of Regulation No 510/2006” (meanwhile replaced by Regulation (EU) 1151/2012).
- The use of figurative signs evoking the geographical area with which a designation of origin is associated may constitute evocation of that designation, including where such figurative signs are used by a producer established in that region, but whose products, similar or comparable to those protected by the designation of origin, are not covered by the PDO.
- An average consumer can be understood as including consumers of the Member State where the product is produced and mainly consumed: In this regard, the Court said: “The concept of the average consumer who is reasonably well informed and reasonably observant and circumspect, to whose perception the national court has to refer in order to assess whether there is ‘evocation’ within the meaning of Article 13(1)(b) of Regulation No 510/2006 (meanwhile replaced by Regulation (EU) 1151/2012), must be understood as covering European consumers, including consumers of the Member State in which the product giving rise to evocation of the protected name is made or with which that name is geographically associated and in which the product is mainly consumed.”
The Supreme Court of Spain will now assess the case at issue, based on the above-mentioned general principles set out by the CJEU.
We take this opportunity to congratulate our member – the “Fundación Consejo Regulador de la Denominación de Origen Protegida Queso Manchego” – for this crucial ruling for the protection of PDO, PGI and GIs. Please read here Case C-614/17 Judgment full text .
For more information on the EU case law on evocation, please find here oriGIn paper.
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For more information about GI Enforcement see the corresponding category in the section Policy and Advocacy