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Chateau Ausone wins trademark case in China

Saint Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classe A Chateau Ausone, and Bordeaux negociant Barriere Freres (owned jointly by Castel Freres and Suntory), have both won cases against trademark squatters in China.

Chateau Ausone won its case against a trademark squatter who had tried to register a Chinese ideogram, which translates as Ausone, in May this year.

Although the chateau did not hold prior legal rights to the trademark, the Chinese Trademark Office (CTO) agreed that the Chinese applicant – who had previously registered other chateaux names – had acted in bad faith.

The CTO also ruled in favour of Barrieres Freres as holder of the trademark Grand Bateau, despite the fact that a similar ship logo had already been registered with them. Barrieres Freres had filed a suit against the former trademark registration, arguing that the two trademarks risked confusing customers.

The same owner, Castel, was less successful with another recent suit, where it was ordered to stop using the Kasite trademark, and to pay US$5 million in fines to the Shanghai Banti Wine Company and Li Dao Zhi who had previously registered the name.

Trademark squatting of wine brands is a problem that has grown over recent years in China.

‘We dealt with one man who had registered almost 300 Bordeaux chateaux names,’ Céline Baillet of law firm INLEX, which specialises in trademark protection, told Decanter.com. ‘He just needed to sell back two or three of them to make it worthwhile. He had no intention of physically forging the wines, it was little more than a hobby.’

It costs around €1000 to register your trademark in China for 10 years of protection, and between €8,000 and €30,000 to buy it back from a brand-squatter, experts estimate.

Written by Jane Anson

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