Aldi's "Champagner Sorbet" - an "exploitation" of a protected designation of origin?

Sparkling .... ?!
Post INTA, this Kat finally has had some time to catch up with some interesting recent German cases.   The Regional Court of Munich I in April decided that German discounter Aldi's champagne sorbet may no longer be called "Champagner Sorbet" even though the discounter's frozen offering does indeed contain actual champagne (well 12%) the rest is reportedly just simple sugar and water.

What had happened?  The case was brought by the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne which had reportedly worried (see a report by the Sueddeutsche Zeitung Online here ) about the bubbly wine's good reputation. The Comité also pointed out that champagne was a protected designation of origin which Aldi had exploited.  Aldi's "Champagner Sorbet" product had been labelled with the photograph of a champagne bottle and glass full of sparkling wine.

The court agreed with the claimant and by assuming a broad legal protection for protected designations of origin confirmed that their use as a product name may be prevented in cases of an exploitation of their reputation.

The judges held that by calling the product "Champagner Sorbet" and using the photograph showing a champagne bottle Aldi had exploited the protected designation of origin's excellent reputation of high quality in relation to sparkling wines.  The court further elaborated that the specific "bubbly" qualities of champagne did not directly affect the sorbet's taste or qualities so that using the word "Champagne(r") in the product name together with Aldi's product getup amounted to an exploitation. 

However, at the same time the judges also stressed that the word "exploitation" should not be interepreted as a "ruthless, sefish" act or refer to an "unfair act" but should be seen as a "value neutral" assessment.  The creative judges then suggested an alternative product name: "Sparkling Wine Sorbet" - which does not quite have the same cachet, one might add.  The judges added that Aldi may still list champagne as in its list of ingredients on the packaging provided it listed in a purely descriptive manner.

Media reports suggest that Aldi will appeal the decision (case reference: 33 O 13181/13) .  A huge katpat goes to Edward Tomlinson for alerting the Kats to this sparkler!
Aldi's "Champagner Sorbet" - an "exploitation" of a protected designation of origin? Aldi's "Champagner Sorbet" - an "exploitation" of a protected designation of origin?  Reviewed by Birgit Clark on Friday, May 16, 2014 Rating: 5


Anonymous said...

Should they not have suggested "Sparkling Winer Sorbet"?

Anonymous said...

doesn't seem like much of a victory for the Champagne industry-- if you can only use a "sparkly sorbet" type label, why bother to purchase real champagne for your ingredient? Why not just source your ingredients from a (presumably) cheaper bubbly producer?

Anonymous said...

Following up on this story, the decision of the Munich Landgericht was overturned on appeal. The OLG has, however, given permission to appeal. The decision is reported here:

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