law and justice in China (pic: iStock)

law and justice in China (pic: iStock)

Producers of "Champagne life" perfume in China are not having the time of their life right now, after being sued by Comité Champagne.

The Beijing Intellectual Property Court has convicted two cosmetics companies for infringing Champagne’s geographical indication trademarks on a perfume product, a positive progress on Champagne’s protection of its appellation.

The Comité Champagne (CIVC), a trade association representing the interest of Champagne producers since 1941, sued two cosmetics companies for infringing its trademarks on their perfume product labelled “Champagne Life” (“香槟人生”). 

The “Champagne Life” perfume is produced by the Guangzhou-based Xuelei Cosmetics Co. Ltd., and distributed by a Beijing-based cosmetics company called Yali Shadi Cosmetics Co. Ltd.

Both Champagne in latin and in Chinese are trademarked and protected in China (pic: screen grab)
Both Champagne in latin and in Chinese are trademarked and protected in China (pic: screen grab)

According to Chinese media reports, CIVC argued the label of the alleged perfume product was mimicking Champagne’s trademarks, which undermines the significance of its protected trademarks and weaken the connections between the trademarks and Champagne’s products.

CIVC has obtained geographical indication (GI) for its trademarked name Champagne in both Latin and Chinese characters (written as”香槟”) since 2013 in mainland China, and only wines produced in Champagne can use the trademarks.

However, the wording “Champagne life” has been directly placed on the centre area of the perfume bottles and packaging boxes, which abused and violated Champagne’s trademarks in the Chinese market.

But at the court, one of the defendants, Xuelei Cosmetics company argued that CIVC’s trademarks of Champagne are not considered “Well-Known Trademarks”, thus the protection of the GI trademark is not applicable in non-similar product categories. 

In China, a “Well-Known Trademark” refers to a trademark that is widely recognised by the relevant public. Its protection scope is broader than general trademarks to include non-similar goods and services.

Champagne (pic: iStock)
Champagne (pic: iStock)

However, the court held that the two trademarks of CIVC are indeed “Well-known” as members of CIVC have built reputation for their collective trademark over the years and proved the renown of the two registered trademarks.

The GI trademark has also been used to indicate the origin of wine products produced in the Champagne region of France for a long time, thus it carries the reputation of the region and serves the function of protecting the appellation, the court added.

On the above basis, the court therefore concluded that the alleged perfume products have misled the public and may have harmed CIVC’s interests, and convicted the two cosmetics companies of trademark infringement. 

The court has also ordered the two companies to pay RMB 220,000 (US$35,000) to CICV and halt the production and sales of “Champagne Life” perfume immediately.

French wine producers have strived to protect their trademarks and interests in China for years. As wines from France’s most famous wine regions like Champagne and Bordeaux are among the most established names in China, they become frequent victims of wine counterfeiters and fraudsters for lucrative profits.

Similar to CIVC, Bordeaux’s official trade body CIVB obtained GI recognition for ‘BORDEAUX 波尔多’ in 2012 to protect its interests in China. It has also been applying for intellectual property rights for close to 50 Bordeaux GIs within China’s legal framework in the past decade.

In 2019, CIVB won a victory in a year-long legal battle against a wine counterfeiter in China, signifying Bordeaux’s dedication to protect its trademarks.

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