The official wine trade body of Bordeaux, Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux (CIVB or Bordeaux Wine Council), has won a victory in a legal battle against a wine counterfeiter in China, after the high court in the country’s eastern Shandong province rejected a local wine company’s appeal to overturn its previous conviction of producing fake Bordeaux wines.
The high court in Shandong upheld previous trial court decision handed down in July 2018 that found Yantai Bai Qi Wine Company infringed legal intellectual property rights of Bordeaux, and that it engaged in unfair competition by selling wines bearing labels of Bordeaux, a geographically indicated (GI) wine region trademarked in China.
The news was relayed to Vino-joy.com by Bordeaux Wine Council’s China representative Thomas Julien this week, after I first reported on the landmark case last year.
The news is significant as it bolsters Bordeaux’s efforts to protect its trademarks in its years-long battle against wine counterfeiters in China, one of its most profitable export markets. Each year, roughly 40% of exported Bordeaux wines by volume are shipped to the country.
The court win was only revealed by the council this week, despite the fact the ruling was handed down in May this year.
It’s unknown about the delay but the revelation came about a month after France and China signed an agreement to prevent counterfeiting geographically indicated goods including Champagne, Bordeaux wines, whisky, cheese and among other products.
The most known wine region in China, Bordeaux’s wines from entry level Cru Bourgeois to first growth wines by Château Lafite Rothschild have fallen victim to counterfeits and copycats.
Earlier Vino-joy.com has reported on a workshop producing fake Château La Tour Carnet, a classified estate in Haut Médoc owned by Bordeaux heavyweight Bernard Magrez.
In recent years, the Bordeaux Wine Council, the wine trade body representing over 7,000 producers in the region, has ramped up its efforts to combat counterfeit wines.
It has been applying intellectual property rights for close to 50 Bordeaux GIs within China’s legal framework since 2011. In 2012, the council obtained GI recognition for ‘BORDEAUX 波尔多’, which is valid till 2022.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly which part or parts of China are responsible for churning out large amount of fake wines. But generally it’s believed that fraudsters are operating from wine producing regions where facilities such as bottling machines are made available.
Shandong province in particular is a hotbed for fake wine production, as the peninsula province is China’s biggest wine producing region by volume, and home to the country’s biggest wine producers by volume including Changyu Pioneers and GreatWall winery, and most recently DBR Lafite’s first Chinese winery Domaine de Long Dai.
Different from other legal cases, what’s unusual about the case as the law firm representing Bordeaux Wine Council, Wanhuida Intellectual Property, highlighted is that this was a lawsuit brought against wine counterfeiters by CIVB, a collective trade body representing over 7000 wineries and producers across Bordeaux, instead of an individual company or person.
It also employed a new stratagem in a civil lawsuit against wine fraudsters. During the first trial at Shandong Intermediate court, Bordeaux Wine Council requested court injunction to freeze Bai Qi’s bank accounts, virtually corking its wine business.
The tactic affected Bai Qi’s application for bank loans and its daily operation, the law firm wrote in a document which has also been reviewed by Vino-joy.com.
This “greatly improved efficiency of court deliberation” and provides a new case study for organisations or individuals in combating counterfeit wine, says the law firm.
Shortly after the court ruling in favor of CIVB, Bai Qi paid a fine of RMB 500,000 (US$71,400) to Bordeaux Wine Council.
But taking a victory lap seems premature. A search of Yantai Bai Qi on Chinese language corporate search engine Tianyancha.com showed that its company owner Liu Xiao Ling has six different companies under his name, and all are related to wine production – if not the fake stuff.
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