Champagne tastes with sorbet lifestyle – the limits of PDOs

The level of protection offered by Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) was examined by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) recently where the matter of ‘Champagne sorbet’ sold by Aldi in Germany was challenged by the Champagne trade group, Comite Inteprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC.

The CIVIC argued that registered names should be protected against any “direct or indirect commercial use”  in respect of products not covered by the registration, where using the name “exploits the reputation of the protected name, including when those products are used an ingredient.” This would have been an important distinction in extending the protection to where and how registered named products could be used as an ingredient in processed foods where the reputation of the protected name might be argued was being exploited.

The ECJ however looked at the “essential characteristics” that might be attributed to the product and in this respect found that the sorbet had a taste that was primarily attributable to champagne. The quantity of champagne added to the sorbet (12%) was held to be “significant but not, in itself, sufficient factor.” It was primarily on the basis of the taste of the product being mainly attributable to the champagne that it was held the product name did not take “undue advantage” of the protected designation of origin and therefore was not considered to have exploited the premium reputation of the PDO Champagne. 

The ECJ concluded that “a PDO is protected not only against false or misleading indications which are liable to create a false impression as to the origin of the product concerned, but also against false or misleading indications relating to the nature or essential qualities of the product;” because the sorbet tasted like champagne that meant the product was neither false nor misleading and there was no misuse or imitation of the PDO protection.

The judgement is available in full here.

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