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Champagne producers get EU backing against 'champanillo'

September 9, 2021

The top EU court told a Barcelona tapas bar to drop the term "champanillo" from advertising, ruling that it infringes on legal protections given to champagne.

Three people toasting with champagne
The term "champagne" has been reserved for fizzy wine made in the French Champagne region Image: picture-alliance/dpa/D. Mauer

The Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) gave Champagne-makers its support on Thursday against businesses trying to use the name of the world-famous fizzy wine to sell any product.

The Champagne-makers' association CIVC had asked the top EU court to stop a chain of tapas bars in Barcelona using the adapted term "champanillo" — Spanish for "little champagne" — in their marketing effort.

What is the case?

CIVC initially took the bars to a Barcelona court for using the adapted name of their geographically protected product to sell their fizzy wine.

However, the Spanish court said that the "champanillo" brand was not in breach of the champagne legal protection as it was not intended to sell an alcoholic beverage but was rather focused on food.

CIVC then appealed the case to Barcelona's provincial court, which sought guidance from the CJEU on whether protected designations of origin (PDO), like champagne, could cover services as well as products.

What did the CJEU say?

EU judges agreed with CIVC. They stated that "reasonably well informed and reasonably observant and circumspect" average European consumers could establish that clear and direct link between the two names.

The Luxembourg-based court said PDO rules extend to "both products and services."

"The regulation thus establishes wide-ranging protection which is intended to extend to all uses which take advantage of the reputation enjoyed by products covered by one of those indications," it said. 

The CJEU returned the case to the Barcelona provincial court for a final judgment.

jc/sms (Reuters, AFP)