18/01/2018 – The EU Court of Justice ruled on the ‘Champagner Sorbet’ case

On 20 December, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) published a preliminary ruling in the ‘Champagner Sorbet’ case.

The Comité Champagne (CIVC) had brought proceedings before a German court against the German supermarket chain Aldi Süd for an injunction to prohibit it from selling a sorbet under the name ‘Champagner Sorbet’. This sorbet contains 12% Champagne. According to CIVC, the distribution of the ‘Champagner Sorbet’ infringes the PDO ‘Champagne’. As the German court decision was not satisfactory, the CIVC appealed to the Federal Supreme Court, which referred a number of questions concerning the use of PDO as ingredients to the CJEU for a preliminary ruling.

The ECJ found that the unlawful exploitation of the reputation of a PDO entails use of the PDO that seeks to take undue advantage of its reputation. The use of the name ‘Champagner Sorbet’ does not take undue advantage (and therefore does not exploit the reputation) of the PDO ‘Champagne’ if the product concerned has, as one of its essential characteristics, a taste that is primarily attributable to Champagne. The quantity of Champagne in the sorbet is a significant but not a sufficient factor. The German court will now have to determine if this sorbet indeed has a taste that is primarily attributable to Champagne and can thus use the name ‘Champagner Sorbet’. This assessment on whether the use of a PDO as an ingredient is intended to take unfair advantage of the reputation of a PDO must be done on a case by case basis by the national courts. If the sorbet in question does not have a taste primarily attributable to Champagne, it can be concluded that the name ‘Champagner Sorbet’ on the packaging of the product constitutes a false or misleading indication and is therefore unlawful.


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