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News article22 July 2022European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency

Feta cheese case – Manolo Blahnik

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FETA CASE (C-159/20)

The Greek government registered back in 2002, the cheese name “Feta” as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). From that moment, "Feta" can only be used for cheeses produced in the designated geographical area in Greece and according to the product specifications. 

Danish cheese producers started elaborating white cheese and labelled it as “Feta”, in order to export it to third countries outside the EU. Denmark claimed that the Regulation 1151/2012 was only applicable to products that were commercialised in the European Union, but not to third countries, as it was not mentioned in the Regulation. 

The European Commission, supported by Greece and Cyprus, brought this case before the European Court of Justice (ECJ), claiming that Denmark should have adopted the necessary measures to stop and prevent the infringement and therefore, was not fulfilling the provisions of the Regulation. 

The ECJ pointed out the following conclusions: 

-       The Regulation prohibits using a registered name like “Feta” to designate a product different from the PDO, even if it was intended for export to third countries. 

-       In the second place, the Regulation granted protection to PDOs, as well as to Protected Geographical Indications (PGIs), as intellectual property rights. By doing this, a uniform protection is guaranteed throughout the EU. Therefore, if a product is named as an existing PDO and it is produced within the EU, but does not comply with the applicable product specification – for instance, as it is not elaborated in the specific area of production-, even if the aim is to export that product, it would be infringing the IP rights. 

-       In the third place, the aim of PDOs is to ensure that a product from a specific geographical area meets certain qualities, and thus to ensure a fair remuneration for the producers of that area. By using the PDO “Feta” for products that are produced in the EU but do not comply with the product specification, Danish producers were undermining those objectives. 

The ECJ concluded that Denmark failed to fulfil its obligations under Regulation 1151/2012, concretely in article 13, as it did not adopt the necessary measures to stop and to prevent the production of cheese with the designation “Feta”, even if it was intended for export to third countries.  

 

MANOLO BLAHNIK 

After 22 years of legal battle, the luxury shoemaker Manolo Blahnik has won the right to use its trade mark in China. Manolo Blahnik started to be recognised at a worldwide level since the 1970s, and increased its popularity on the occasion of the TV drama “Sex and the City”. 

When Blahnik sought to expand its business to the Chinese market, he found that a Chinese businessman had already registered a trade mark for “Manolo & Blahnik”, and was actively using it for footwear. Several appeals were dismissed on the grounds that the British shoemaker could not prove the reputation of its brand in China before 2000. With this recent ruling, the Chinese Supreme Court invalidated the infringing trade mark. As a result, Manolo Blahnik will be able to sell its shoes in China for the first time without an intermediary. 

China relies on a first-to-file trade mark system, which means that the first person to file a trade mark application is considered as the owner. Trade mark legislation is progressively changing in the country, in order to make the system more flexible and to avoid bad faith filings that can be detrimental to foreign companies, when trying to protect their trade marks in China. 

Details

Publication date
22 July 2022
Author
European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency