TUESDAY 7 JUL 2009 4:25 PM


Champagne isn’t champagne if it doesn’t come from Champagne; pork pies are just pork pies if they’re not from Melton Mowbray. Then there’s Camembert cheese, Welsh lamb and Parma ham. But this week the European Court of Justice upheld the right for Dutch brewers, Bavaria NV, to produce and market their 'Bavaria' beer despite the fact that Bavarian beer enjoys geographical protection as to where it is made.

The ruling finally settles an eight-year trade mark dispute between Bavaria NV and Bayerischer Brauerbund, the German association of Bavarian brewers. Although its Bayerisches Bier (Bavarian beer) had been granted Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status, it was decided that the production of the Dutch beer preceded the PGI status it has been brewing ‘Bavaria’ since 1925, and had trade marked the name in 1947.

“This decision demonstrates that the strong protection for geographical terms cannot necessarily be used to cancel out earlier rights that brand owners have legitimately and successfully sought to protect,” said Kirsten Gilbert, a solicitor at intellectual property firm Marks & Clerk Solicitors. “In making this ruling, the courts have also reaffirmed the geographical protection afforded to the name ‘Bavaria’. This means no other producer will be able to use the Bavaria name unless its beer conforms to the rules surrounding its regional production. Bavaria NV was successful on the basis that its rights predated those of the German brewers.”