“PORT CHARLOTTE” Whisky does not infringe the EU protected designation of origin (PDO) “PORTO” or “PORT” – Consideration needed urgently for protection of PDOs and GIs, UK and EU-wide, post-Brexit

The CJEU has confirmed that “Port Charlotte”, registered as an EU trade mark for whisky, does not evoke (infringe) the protected designation of origin (PDO) for “porto” or “port”. The decision will be significant for consumer products businesses as it confirms that EU (not national) law applies to enforcement of Protected Designations of Origin (PDO) and highlights the importance of ensuring continued protection of UK PDOs post-Brexit.

Interestingly, the CJEU did not find that the use of “Port Charlotte” as a brand for whisky would have a detrimental impact upon the PDO for port (and the port producers protected by this designation). Yet we await the outcome in a not dissimiliar dispute before the CJEU between the Champagne wine producers and Aldi over the sale of champagne flavoured sorbet (see our report of the Aldi case here ).

Business Impact

·         The CJEU’s ruling that Regulation1234/2007 (which sets out the rules on PDOs for wine) (the “Regulation”) exclusively and exhaustively lays down the legal rules in the EU applicable to the protection of PDOs, to the exclusion of any national laws which seek to provide additional protection, confirms that the system for PDO protection is entirely as set out in the relevant EU law, and cannot be supplemented at a national level.

·         Assessing consumer perception of the meaning of a mark, throughout the EU, will be relevant to the assessment of whether that mark “evokes” in the mind of the consumer the PDO in question.  The impact of this point will be fact specific, in each case.  The likelihood that a PDO is evoked may also be affected by the similarity, or otherwise, of the features of the products in question.

·         In a post-Brexit world, the UK will need to give thought to the interaction of PDOs granted under the EU system and what level of protection would be offered going forwards to existing PDOs in the UK and whether the UK continues with its own system of protected designations and geographical indications for distinctive UK foods (such as cheeses and pork pies) and beers/wines (such as ales and bitters).

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