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Status: 2024-06-26

The first case of its kind in China: A car company used Cognac, a French Geographical Indication registered in China, for cross marketing. What’s the court ruling?

This is the first case in the Chinese mainland involving an unfair competition dispute over the anti-dilution protection of an internationally renowned geographical indication. It was selected as one of the top ten most research-worthy intellectual property cases in China in 2023.


Overview: “Cognac,” the first foreign geographical indication protected in China, represents the quality of specific French AOC wines and enjoys a high reputation and influence among the relevant public. A foreign car company in China and its related joint venture used the term “Cognac Special Edition” to name some of their car models and the term “Cognac” to name the color of those models. The plaintiff, the French National Cognac Industry Office, believed that the defendant’s behavior constituted unfair competition and initiated a lawsuit with the court.


The court decided after trial that the protection of geographical indications extend beyond the framework of the Trademark Law, and any infringement of geographical indications should be condemned on a legal basis. The defendant’s use of Cognac not only increased the risk of generalizing the term as a geographical indication but also disrupted the market competition. This would inevitably lead to confusion and mislead consumers, thereby harming the legitimate rights and interests of both the plaintiff and consumers and constituting unfair competition. The court supported all of the plaintiff’s claims, ruling that the defendant shall immediately cease the unfair competition, publish a retraction in a newspaper to mitigate the impact, and compensate RMB 2 million to the plaintiff.





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