Haut-Brion foiled in court battle

Haut-Brion foiled in court battle News Wine News
  • Saturday 8 January 2000

Despite its 400-year history and unparalleled reputation, Château Haut-Brion is no longer a bona fide trademark, a Bordeaux court has ruled.

Robert Parker's favourite first growth has been told to remove itself from the national register on pain of a heavy fine.

The same applies to the other brands owned by the Société Clarence Dillon, namely châteaux La Mission-Haut-Brion, Laville-Haut-Brion, Bahans-Haut-Brion and La Tour-Haut-Brion. The court ruling, announced in October 1999, was the latest twist in a chain of events revolving around the exclusivity of the name Haut-Brion.

Earlier in the year the Société Clarence Dillon had successfully challenged in the courts a viticulteur from the Médoc who had labelled some of his production Chateau Moulin de Brion, after a particular plot on his land.

The producer was ordered to drop the name, but challenged the ruling by citing an obscure law from 1921 which prohibits the use of the word Haut in a wine brand name, unless in an appellation zone already containing the word, for example Haut-Medoc.

The court ruled in favour of the viticulteur, returning his right to use the name Chateau Moulin de Brion and striking from the register all those brands owned by Société Clarence Dillon containing the word Haut. The Société is now taking the case to France's Supreme Court of Appeal to have the ruling overturned. Removal from the register does not affect the Societe's right to produce and market the brand.

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