Anthony Rose: Veuve Clicquot has form in suing or threatening to sue minnows

 

Anthony Rose
Saturday 08 February 2014 01:00
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Until recently, the name of Ciro Picariello would no more have been on the lips of wine lovers than the sparkling wine made by this obscure wine producer from near Naples.

But the grapevine was buzzing last month with reports that the Champagne Goliath, Veuve Clicquot, of yellowy-orange label renown, was in talks with the little Italian David over their chutzpah in using an orange label for its 3,500 bottle Brut Contadino. An orange label, mind, not yellow-orange. I think the jobsworths at Veuve Clicquot may need to head to Specsavers or take another look at the Dulux Colour Chart.

Known as Pantone 137C, the colour has been registered as a trademark to prevent others from ripping it off in the EU, USA and Australia. Veuve Clicquot has form in suing or threatening to sue minnows for daring to use its colour scheme. It successfully sued the Spanish cava Don Jaime in 2012 for using an orange trademarked by Don Jaime as Pantone 1375C. In 2001, the threat of legal action against the tiny Stefano Lubiana Winery in Tasmania for using 'Clicquot Orange' resulted in Lubiana agreeing to withdraw its fizz rather than face a costly legal action. Veuve's owners, Moët Hennessy Champagne Services, even stopped a Belgian company from using a yellow-orange colour along with the word 'Malheur', printed in blue, for beer.

Champagne hasn't become the multi-billion-euro industry that it is by sitting on its hands. One of the functions of the Champagne Committee in Reims (motto: 'Champagne only comes from the Champagne Region in France') is "to undertake outreach, communication and promotional activities to protect and defend the AOC wines of the official Champagne wine region". The entire industry is constantly on the qui vive to snuff out any kind of infringement against the valuable Champagne name. You'd think that Champagne producers would be proud of the term 'méthode champenoise' to describe their time-honoured technique of re-fermenting the still wine with yeast to produce carbon dioxide, or bubbles. But no, they refuse to allow any other company or region to use the term.

More often than not, it's a name rather than a colour that offends. You may remember Champagne producers coming down heavily on our own little minnow, Thorncroft, for daring to use the word Champagne for its non-alcoholic elderflower fizz. More famously, Yves Saint Laurent was taken to court for launching a perfume called Champagne. YSL may have calculated that the publicity made it all worthwhile. Doubtless Ciro Picariello, too, will be enjoying its new fame. All publicity, after all, is good publicity. Unless you're Veuve Clicquot, that is, and your apparent sledgehammer tactics become the story.

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