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There are many flavors of sorbets and ice creams in shops nowadays. However, the champagne-flavored sorbet has been a little more controversial than other sorbets, particularly because its name contains the term “champagner.”

The dispute goes back to the end of 2012, when Süd Dienstleistungs-GmbH & Co. OHG, a subsidiary of German supermarket chain Aldi, marketed a sorbet with the name “Champagner Sorbet,” one of whose ingredients was champagne (12%). The Interprofessional Committee for Champagne Wine, made up of champagne producers, filed a complaint with the German courts, considering that the sale of the mentioned sorbet seriously damaged the famous French fizzy wine’s certificate of origin.

Given the uncertainty as to how to interpret European laws protecting certificates of origin (mainly EU regulations 1234/2007 and 1308/2013), the German Supreme Court raised several issues with the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) for preliminary ruling, which can be summarized in two points: (i) can a product that uses a certificate of origin in its commercial name be marketed if that product contains an ingredient that legally can be referred to with that certificate of origin)?; and (ii) in the same scenario as that mentioned in point (i), can this action be classified as usurpation, evocation or imitation of the certificate of origin in question?

Finally, on December 20, 2017, the CJEU issued a judgment; regarding point (i), it considered that EU law only prohibits those cases in which the product does not have as an essential element a flavor resulting from the use of the ingredient in its composition. However, regarding point (ii), the court acknowledges that, although the use of a certain certificate of origin (such as that of champagne) could positively influence the popularity of a product (such as the sorbet), this is not an automatic breach of internal EU law. In the matter raised with the CJEU, the court concluded that the sorbet did have a considerable champagne flavor and, therefore, that champagne is an essential element of that product (that it does include champagne as one of its ingredients), meaning that there is no usurpation of the reputation of the champagne certificate of origin.


Published by Daniel Urbán and Cristina Clos

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