Background

Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux (CIVB) is a French interest group representing nearly 10,000 Bordeaux wine producers and growers and 400 wineries. One of the group's many aims is to promote the Bordeaux brand and defend the prestige of Bordeaux wines in France and abroad.

A Bordeaux wine is any wine produced in the Bordeaux region of southwest France. As of 2015, the Appellation d'Origine Controlée (AOC) had recognised 60 Bordeaux appellations, giving the region more than any other wine region in Europe.

Facts

On July 14 2012 the CIVB registered with the China Trademark Office (CTMO) the geographical indication (GI) collective trademark BORDEAUX波尔多 (ie, Bordeaux in Latin and Chinese characters) in Class 33, designating wines. CIVB members could use the collective trademark provided that their:

  • chateau and vineyards were located inside the Bordeaux region's geographical boundaries; and
  • chateau agreed to follow:
    • the specific rules and regulations set out by the appellation regarding vineyard practices, grapes, minimum and maximum yields and minimal sugar and alcohol levels; and
    • the established practices for vinification.

In March 2014 the CIVB discovered that Hunan Margaux Trading Co, Ltd was selling multiple products with the trademarks 玛歌堡 (ie, Margaux Castle) and BORDEAUX printed on the front label. It was easily confirmed that the wine was not from the Bordeaux region and did not meet the special quality requirements of Bordeaux wine.

In October 2016 the CIVB filed suit against Hunan Margaux before the Changsha Intermediate Court on the ground of trademark infringement.

Decision

The court held that the BORDEAUX mark was used on the cap and front label of products to serve as a source identifier. Such use falls under the category of trademark use. The disputed BORDEAUX mark was similar to the cited mark (ie, Bordeaux in Latin and Chinese characters). Further, the CIVB stated that neither the defendant nor the chateau had indicated on the products that they were a CIVB member and thus entitled to use the BORDEAUX波尔多 GI collective trademark, a statement that the defendant had failed to rebut. The court therefore found that the defendant's sale of the wine constituted trademark infringement.

The Changsha Intermediate Court issued its judgment on July 4 2017, awarding the CIVB a court injunction and damages of Rmb150,000.

Comment

Bordeaux has a long history of being the victim of wine forgery in the Chinese wine market. Although the BORDEAUX GI collective trademark is registered with the CTMO, the administrative enforcement authorities have seldom made findings of trademark infringement based on unauthorised use of the mark. Some have even held that the mere inclusion of the term 'Bordeaux' in a mark does not render it similar to the Bordeaux波尔多 mark, as the prominent part of the GI collective mark is the Chinese component.

This was the first civil case in which the GI collective trademark BORDEAUX波尔多 was granted judicial protection in China. The court's decision that the use of the term 'Bordeaux' on wine will constitute trademark infringement if it can be established that the wine is not from the Bordeaux region is encouraging.

Having established the parameters for infringement of a GI collective mark, this decision is expected to serve as a point of reference for the local administrative enforcement authorities in future.

For further information on this topic please contact Zhang Yan or Cao Jin at Wanhuida Peksung by telephone (+86 10 6892 1000) or email (zhangyan@wanhuida.com or caojin@wanhuida.com). The Wanhuida Peksung website can be accessed at www.wanhuida.com and www.peksung.com.

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