08/02/2016 – Calvados vs. Verlados: the CJEU clarifies the concept of GI evocation

This judgment is interesting because deals with the concept of evocation under Article 16(b) of the EU Spirit Drinks Regulation (EC, No 110/2008) in relation to “Verlados”, a Finnish cider spirit. The issue is whether such name could evoke the French cider spirit GI “Calvados”. The Finnish Court which dealt with the case had referred several questions to the CJEU.

The background is the following: Viiniverla, established in Verla (Finland), has manufactured and marketed cider spirits named “Verlados” since 2001. Following a complaint of the European Commission, in 2013 the Finnish authorities stated that the drink named “Verlados” is a local product whose name refers directly to the place of its manufacture, that is to say the village of Verla and the Verla winery. They added that the names “Calvados” and “Verlados” have only their last syllable in common, which is insufficient in the light of the case-law to establish an evocation.

According to the CJEU, when judging an evocation, national courts must consider that the protection provided by Article 16(b) Spirit Drinks Regulation should be interpreted in a way which satisfies the regulation’s objectives of preventing deceptive practices, market transparency, fair competition and a high level of consumer protection. In particular:

  • Assessing the existence of evocation does not require for the names at issue to be phonetically and visually identical. This is just one factor which could lead to evocation.
  • There may be evocation even if the true origin of the product is indicated (paragraph 43).
  • There may be evocation even in the absence of any likelihood of confusion between the products concerned (paragraph 45).
  • It was irrelevant that Verlados was sold locally and in small quantities because the regulation applies to all spirit drinks placed on the market in the European Union (paragraphs 46/47).

Read the full judgment (which contains interesting elements also with respect to the concepts of similar products and average consumers in the framework of GI infringements). 


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