Champagne and Strawberries

Victoria’s Secret sell a range of lotions, sprays and hand creams under the title “Strawberries and Champagne”. Presumably, the intention was to inspire romance, fun, bubbliness and summer fruity sweetness. On 16 November 2009, they filed an Israel trademark application which was allows the following October and published for opposition purposes.

Champagne is a historic province in the northeast of France, and the association of French wine-growers Comite Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne objected to Victoria’s Secret’s trademark application and filed an opposition in February 2011.

I don’t think there is a likelihood of confusion, but apparently the association of French wine-growers (Comite Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC)) see things differently. Their objection is on grounds of dilution. In other words, any use of the word champagne that is not for sparkling wine originating in the Champagne area, including usage for lingerie, soaps, luxury cars, etc. is considered damaging to the mark, and to the reputation of their wine.

Whether or not the Israel trademark commissioner would have agreed is moot, since Victoria’s Secret withdrew the trademark application due to lack of commercial interest before the case was heard on its merits.

Comite Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne’s counsel applied for NIS 95,404.60 in legal fees but failed to provide sufficient evidence that such fees were fairly accrued, and so Ms Jaqueline Bracha, the Deputy Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks, awarded NIS 5,000 in damages and a further NIS 20,000 is legal fees.

Cost Ruling: TM 224851 Comite Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne vs. Victoria’s Secret Brand Management 25 June 2012.

NIS 20,000 is somewhat less than NIS 95,000. Nevertheless, it is enough to cover a fair supply of champagne wine and body lotion. Of course, if Victoria’s Secret’s lotions don’t taste good, this could have a damaging effect on purchasers assuming that the lotion contained Champagne and the unpleasant taste was the result of the champagne. One wonders though if trademark protection in this case should extend beyond beverages? Should the association of Scotch whiskey growers be able to prevent little black or white dogs being sold as Scot’s terriers? what about scotch eggs?

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