The justice of the European Union strengthens the protection of the appellation

European justice on Thursday reinforced the guarantees from which Protected Designations of Origin (PDO) must benefit, in a decision hailed by the French Champagne Wine Committee which challenged the use of the term “Champanillo” by a Spanish operator of bars. tapas. The designation must be protected “with regard to actions relating to both products and services” in this case those of a bar-restaurant, said the Court of Justice of the European Union, according to a press release.

At the origin of the dispute: an action brought before the Spanish courts by the French champagne producers, via the Interprofessional Committee of Champagne Wine (CIVC) which defends their interests. This organization wants to ban the use in Spain of the term “champanillo”, “small champagne” in Spanish, on the grounds that it evokes both visually and phonetically the French PDO (protected designation of origin) and thus seeks to take advantage of its reputation.

“It’s an excellent decision”

The CJEU recalls that the operator of tapas bars at the heart of the dispute uses this term “to designate and promote its establishments”. In addition, “in his advertisements he uses a graphic medium representing two cups filled with a frothy drink,” she explains. Seized on appeal, the provincial court of Barcelona sought clarification from the Court of Luxembourg on the interpretation of Union law applying to PDOs, when a disputed term is used to designate not products but services .

In its judgment, the CJEU underlines that European regulations “establish a very broad protection which is intended to extend to any use aimed at profiting from the reputation associated with products” benefiting from a PDO. In addition, the contested name does not need to be “identical or similar” for this European regulation to apply. The “conceptual proximity” with the PDO can justify this challenge, further indicates the Court.

“It’s an excellent decision”, greeted Marie-Anne Genand, legal manager of the CIVC. “Of course, it is up to the Spanish judge to decide whether indeed the word champanillo is an attack on our name”, she underlined. But this judge will be able to rely on this European judgment pointing out “the strong visual and phonetic similarity between the two words, which is a very good point for us”. “Extended protection [des appellations] conferred by European regulations is confirmed, ”added Marie-Anne Genand.

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