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Champagne Branding Case Keeps Trade Mark Rights ‘Cristal’ Clear

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Champagne Branding Case Keeps Trade Mark Rights ‘Cristal’ Clear

October 06
07:37 2016

Julie Brown 3When the owner of Cristal champagne took a similar-sounding product to court in order to prevent its luxury image from being diluted, their legal team cited celebrities and hip-hop culture to demonstrate the power of the brand it has built.

Julie Brown looks at what Scottish food and drinks firms might learn from this interesting case.



Why was the Cristal brand threatened?

Champagne Louis Roederer (CLR), the owner of the Cristal UK and Community Trade Marks, argued that Spanish cava brand ‘Cristalino’ was taking unfair advantage of its reputation, to the potential detriment of Cristal’s own sales. CLR took the owners of Cristalino to the High Court in order to try and stop them using the name.

CLR had a registered trade mark, but Cristalino is slightly different; what did CLR have to prove?

That there was a likelihood of confusion between the two products. Arguments were made in court surrounding the possibility of confusing the two names in a noisy nightclub, and the fact that Cristalino may have been taken for a ‘second wine’ or cheaper offshoot brand of Cristal. Arguments were also made that the Cristalino branding was printed on a convex surface of a bottle. Depending on how the Cristalino bottle was stacked on the shelf, the end of the name may be obscured, with only the ‘Cristal’ part of the name being displayed. This would lead to confusion.

CLR also had to prove that Cristal had a strong reputation in the UK, which is why it showed the Court various references in the media to its champagne, including reports of celebrities buying and drinking Cristal and evidence of its use as a status symbol in US hip-hop and rap music. Reputation was also established by examining survey evidence, which showed relatively strong recognition of the brand among the general public, despite only 40,000 bottles being sold in Britain annually.

Who won the court case and what can other firms learn?

The Cristalino brand was held to infringe the Cristal trade mark. The judge agreed with CLR that any association with a cheap cava could dilute Cristal’s luxury image, leading to a reduction of sales, and that Cristalino took unfair advantage of the Cristal brand.

While some catering sector firms may not have the resources of a premium champagne maker, they are still dependent on their brand and reputation for much of their custom. Their branding is therefore valuable and businesses should ensure that it is adequately protected in case they have to defend the names under which they trade. The Cristal case provides excellent examples of the various ways in which trade mark infringement can be established in court.

Equally, businesses should take care when launching a new product name or designing new packaging or logos, and always check whether any other organisations use similar names or themes in their branding. Otherwise, they risk infringing another trade mark owner’s rights, which may have costly consequences.

Is it worth going to court to defend a small brand?

Court actions can be costly, particularly for smaller businesses, so we would always suggest attempting to settle a dispute out of court, if possible. Infringement should not be tolerated by any brand as branding and reputation form important parts of any business. Raising a successful action for infringement will prevent subsequent use of the mark by that infringer and will perhaps deter others from doing the same. Ultimately, a successful claim may result in the trade mark owner being awarded monetary compensation for the damage caused by the infringement.

Julie Brown is an associate in the IP & Technology team at Maclay Murray & Spens LLP.

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Catering Scotland

Catering Scotland

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