EU gives green light to comparative advertising

Protected product names such as Champagne can be used in advertising for other products, a European Court of Justice has ruled. The decision follows a battle between Champagne maker Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin and a Belgian brewer.

The Champagne company, which is owned by LVHM Group, and an association of champagne and wine makers sued the Belgian brewery De Landtsheer Emmanuel in 2002 for advertising a new beer as “champagnebier” to highlight its sparkling wine-like qualities.

The European court ruled last week in favour of the beer brand and said that comparative advertising between products with and without protected names “is possible in certain cases” laying down some of the conditions that must be met. It ruled that comparative advertising must not take “unfair advantage of the reputation of a trade mark, trade name or other distinguishing marks of a competitor or of the designation of origin of competing products”.

However names such as Champagne, Parma Ham, Cognac and Parmesan cheese enjoy ‘protected designation of origin’ in the EU, stopping other producers from selling their own version of these products if not produced or sourced from their country of origin.

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