Protecting intellectual property on the alcoholic beverages market | In Principle

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Protecting intellectual property on the alcoholic beverages market

According to figures from KPMG, the alcoholic beverages market in Poland was worth about PLN 57 billion in 2016, and its value is growing year on year. The industry is of great economic importance, providing numerous jobs and offering a major sales outlet for agricultural production. The selection of the topic for today’s edition is no accident. We believe that developments on the market may cause certain models for protection of intellectual property to grow in importance—alongside growing threats to those rights. We discuss them here from the practical side.

For years the alcoholic beverages industry has had to deal with numerous restrictions imposed by lawmakers. These involve for example tax and regulatory issues, including advertising. The regulation of alcohol advertising is uneven, with different segments of the industry treated differently. It can even be hard to determine whether activity constitutes advertising or not. Where is the boundary that ad agencies must hew to when working with alcoholic beverage producers? Can an advertiser run afoul of the rules by advertising simple fruit juice? This is the topic of our article “Intoxicating advertising: A few real-life examples.”

If advertising of alcoholic beverages is generally prohibited, how can producers demonstrate the renown of a trademark for spirits? Evidence of advertising and promotion and the related expenditures are usually vital evidence for showing that a trademark is well-known. Proof of renown results in stronger protection for a trademark and broader protection against infringement. This can nonetheless be achieved, as we discuss in “Proving the fame of a trademark for alcoholic beverages before the Polish courts.”

Premium brands, particularly whiskies, have been taking a bigger and bigger slice of the alcoholic beverages market in Poland. Consumers pay more attention to origin and quality. This is contributing to the growing importance of geographical indications. Not everyone knows that Polish Vodka is a registered indication. But is it permissible to allude to geography when the product has little in common with the region? The answer is found in the article “Origin matters: The power of geographical indications for alcoholic beverages.”

Another common approach on the market is to evoke tradition and history in the labelling of alcoholic beverages. Many producers employ the name or likeness of famous and distinguished figures from the past. What other personal attributes appear on bottles? What would you think of such practices if you were a Sobieski, a Chopin or a Poniatowski? What rules govern the permissible use of such names for products? See our article “Infringement of personal rights in the alcoholic beverage industry.”

Our many years of practice in this area confirm that counterfeiting of alcoholic beverages is a perennial problem. In Poland this practice mainly affects vodka brands. The scale of the problem may be wider than generally believed. The fraudulent practices extend beyond merely labelling products with fake trademarks. In the article “Alcoholic beverages fraud is not just counterfeiting” we discuss the legal measures that trademark holders can pursue to combat this problem.

Consumers need to know what they are buying when they reach for a bottle labelled “cider” or “perry.” But different regulations governing these products apply in different EU member states. For example, in Slovakia colours and flavours can be added. What stance do EU institutions take on these practices? Find out in the article “Can the name of an alcoholic beverage be misleading?

Sometimes a brand becomes so popular that it becomes a victim of its own success. We relate the story of the Polish cherry cordial called “Wiśniówka” and the Bulgarian wine “Sophia” in the article “Can the popularity of a brand result in loss of trademark?

These are just a few of the issues discussed in today’s edition and only a fraction of the legal issues we encounter on the alcoholic beverages market.

Read our report in good cheer.

Anna Pompe, adwokat, Włodzimierz Szoszuk, adwokat, Intellectual Property practice, Wardyński & Partners