ECJ: Aldi’s “champagne sorbet” didn’t violate any EU protected designation of origin

The European Court of Justice decided the judgment on the ban sought by a France’s committee of champagne on the German Aldi supermarket chain which have been selling product called ‘champagne sorbet’. In this regard, the Court ruled that if a sorbet really tastes like champagne, then it can be called ‘champagne sorbet’.

The ECJ left the definitive decision to a German court, nevertheless it stated that the name ‘champagne sorbet’ would not violate any EU protected designation of origin if the frozen dessert “has, as one of its essential characteristics, a taste attributable primarily to champagne”.

What is more, the Court said the quantity of champagne in the product was “a significant but not, in itself, sufficient factor”: Aldi’s champagne sorbet contained only 12% champagne.

The case, indeed, started when Aldi Sud sold the sorbet in its German stores under the name ‘champagner sorbet’. Consequently, the industry lobbying group Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne (CIVC) sues Aldi before a German Court asking for an injunction to stop the sale, assuming that the sorbet was free-riding on the quality and prestige of the real thing.

The Court therefore asked the ECJ for clarifications on the commercial use of the European Union’s protected designation of origin, according to which Champagne can only be made in the region of Champagne in eastern France.

Nevertheless, the ECJ said Aldi’s sorbet did not violate this rule, stating in the judgement that “a sorbet may be sold under the name champagne sorbet if it has, as one of its essential characteristics, a taste attributable primarily to champagne. If that is the case, that product name does not take undue advantage of the protected designation of origin ‘Champagne’”.

Further, Aldi’s German head office said: “We had the champagne sorbet product in our assortment as a one-time promotion for Christmas in December 2012. This product has not been available for sale in our stores ever since. However, the final ruling by the federal court of justice is still pending.”

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