On January 27, 2021 the new German wine law came into force. It introduces a new kind of hierarchy for German wines based on its geographic origin. In a way it can be seen as a remodelling of the system that previously existed with the aim to improve the overall quality of German wine as well as to fit better with the EU system. The four primary geographic “levels” for a German quality wine (Qualitätswein) are now Area, Region, Village, and Vineyard.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (the “TTAB”) recently published a precedential decision regarding the treatment of trademarks for wine and spirits and their potential for being “deceptively misdescriptive” pursuant to Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1052(a). Section 2(a) has three provisions, all of which are relevant to the alcoholic beverage industry. In this new precedential decision, the TTAB held that “[t]erms that are not specifically place names, but which may have ‘geographical association,’ may provide bases for claims under the general deceptiveness provision of Section 2(a).”
Foreign geographical indications (GIs) may be granted protection even without a trademark registration in China. GIs are indications that identify a good as originating from a certain region or locality, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to the natural or humanistic features of the place indicated. What if an indication is accredited as a GI in its country of origin – is it sufficient to be granted protection in China without being registered as a trademark? On 10 January 2011, Fujian Longwang Trading filed an application to the Trademark Office for registration of Trademark No. 9037930 “罗曼尼·康帝” (disputed trademark, Chinese transliteration of “Romanee-Conti”) on class 33 goods of “Wine; Whiskey”. The application was approved for registration on 21 January 2012.