A Bordeaux wine is any wine produced in the Bordeaux region of France. The French government created the Bordeaux appellation, recognised by the Appellation d'Origine Controlée, in order to grant official status to select agricultural products due to the region's specific terroir and soil. The Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux (CIVB) is a French interest group representing nearly 10,000 Bordeaux wine producers and growers and 400 wineries.
On July 14 2012 the CIVB registered with the China Trademark Office a geographical indication (GI) collective trademark 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 2016 the Shanghai Public Security Bureau raided a local wine dealer suspected of selling counterfeit wine. The CIVB confirmed that the Bordeaux wine sold by the dealer was not from the Bordeaux region. Given that the sales turnover totalled approximately Rmb5 million, far beyond the criminal threshold for counterfeiting registered trademarks, the bureau transferred the case to the local people's procuratorate for public prosecution.
On December 8 2017 the Xuhui District Court of Shanghai found the dealer, its legal representative and one of its employees guilty of selling commodities bearing counterfeit registered trademarks pursuant to Article 214 of the Criminal Law.
- fined the dealer Rmb400,000;
- sentenced the dealer's legal representative to three years' imprisonment and four years' probation and imposed a fine of Rmb400,000;
- sentenced the dealer's employee to three years' imprisonment and three years' probation and imposed a fine of Rmb200,000; and
- ordered all of the counterfeit wine seized to be forfeited.
The Shanghai court's ruling, which granted the same level of protection to a registered GI collective trademark as an ordinary registered trademark, has been welcomed.
To date, criminal enforcement of GIs in China has been difficult. Without explicit provisions addressing this matter in the Criminal Law, GI registrants have had little to rely on except a 2009 official reply from the Second Criminal Tribunal of the Supreme People's Court confirming that:
- collective marks fall under the protection of the Criminal Law; and
- the counterfeiting of collective marks is governed by Article 213-215 of the law.
In China, counterfeiters and infringers often forge the place of origin of goods. However, the authorities – including the police, the people's procuratorates and the courts – have tended to find that:
- such acts constitute a civil infringement of private rights, rather than a crime that is detrimental to public interests; and
- the Criminal Law does not apply to cases involving counterfeit GI collective trademarks.
This is the first criminal ruling regarding a counterfeit GI collective trademark to be awarded by a Chinese court. As such, it may serve as a precedent in future.