The European Court of Justice has recently decided that designations of origin can be evoked, and potentially infringed, by using imagery or themes inspired by such designation - and not just words.
This case started in Spain through the claim made by the Regulatory Council of Manchego cheese against Cuquerella, a company that was using images reminiscent of the "manchego" culture without being part of the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). Cuquerella markets a cheese called "Rocinante", after the horse of La Mancha's most famous dweller, Don Quixote, that uses elements of this same book such as windmills on branding. While Cuquerella is also located in the same area as the PDO, Rocinante does not comply with all of the PDO's requirements (for instance is not made with a 100% sheep milk).
Initially courts in Spain found there was no infringement, as the specific terms exclusive to the PDO were not used by Cuquerella.
The case arrived to the Supreme Court of Spain, who sent some questions to the Court of Justice of the European Union to assist in the interpretation of the European Designation of Origin Regulation, namely, if a Designation of Origin can be evoked through the usage of images and themes, instead of directly mentioned - to which the European Court in a landmark decision replied in the positive.
So, in this case, the quixotic theme could be enough to make consumers associate the product with the PDO. The case will now return to Spanish courts where it will be decided if Cuquerella can continue to use this image, and to what extent.
Ironically, these cheeses are being made by Cuquerella in La Mancha for decades, before even the set up of the PDO - and one would be tempted to think they have right to use the symbols and images of their region. However, the aim of the Designation of Origin framework is precisely to preserve the legacy and prestige of agricultural products which in the long term this benefits not only consumers but also the image of Spanish products in general.
If you have any question in relation to Designations of Origin or Geographical Indications, drop us a line in email@example.com, or visit us in www.emps.es