The Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), an association representing the interests of champagne producers, sought an injunction in Spain requiring a chain of tapas bars to cease use of the name "CHAMPANILLO" on the grounds that it unlawfully evokes "Champagne", which is a protected designation of origin (PDO):
The action is based on Article 103(2)(b) of Regulation (EU) 1308/2013 establishing a common organisation of the markets in agricultural products. The aforementioned Regulation prohibits (inter alia) "any misuse, imitation or evocation, even if the true origin of the product or service is indicated [...]".
The court of second instance, the Provincial Court of Barcelona, requested a preliminary ruling from the Court of Justice (CJEU) to clarify whether a PDO is infringed even if the allegedly conflicting name is used to designate not similar goods but services.
According to the Opinion of the Advocate General, Union law affords protection against all practices of commercial free-riding regardless of whether such practices relate to goods or services. In the view of the Advocate General, such free riding occurs whenever a particular sign immediately creates a mental association with the original product in the mind of the average consumer, which in the present case is reinforced in particular by the graphic representation of the logo used by the tapas bars that depicts two champagne glasses coming together in a toast. The fact that "CHAMPANILLO" can be translated as "little champagne" results in a strong conceptual similarity and therefore strengthens the association.
Finally, the Court of Justice stressed that the protection against evocation does neither necessarily require that there be a competitive relationship, nor a finding of unfair competition.
If the CJEU upholds the conclusions reached by the Advocate General in his Opinion, this would be an important clarification regarding PDO protection, which is partially more far-reaching than trademark law.