I heard that the name Champagne can be used only for sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region in France and recognized by an association there, and that it is prohibited to call other sparkling wine as Champagne. What is the legal basis for this, and how can one establish a similar privilege, say in USA, EU, and other countries?

Is it a registered trademark like Doritos, and is it the same thing as no other chips than those produced by that company can be called Doritos?

If I register 'Sake' as a trademark for a type of alcoholic beverage produced in Odaiba region in Japan, will other producers outside of that region prohibited to call their sake as sake any more? I guess such registration will be rejected, but then what happened in the case of Champagne? What happened to the Champagne producers outside Champagne then?

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    The Wikipedia article has fairly good coverage on the name Champagne, which has been regulated internationally in Europe since 1891. Part of your confusion may stem from the fact that trademarks and similar designations are not regulated globally; do you have a particular jurisdiction in mind?
    – phoog
    Apr 7, 2017 at 0:02
  • O.K. I had read only the first summary part of that article in Wikipedia, but didn't even take a look at the table of contents. What a shame. Anyway, my question persists, and I want to know more about legal principles and actual laws adopted in each (and any) country (e.g. USA, Japan, France, or EU) which can justify granting the exclusive right to one party and resolve resulting conflicts, rather than about international law system to maintain such a right. I assume many countries have similar laws in this regard.
    – norio
    Apr 7, 2017 at 0:39
  • I mean, according to the Wikipedia article, it looks like that the trademark is the basis of this exclusive usage of the name, but why the trademark could be registered? I guess there were people who suffered from the trademark registration (like the Swiss Champagne people), and on what ground the registration was still justified?
    – norio
    Apr 7, 2017 at 0:46
  • The appellation d'origine contrôlée was established in France, in French law, and did not affect wine produced in Champagne, Switzerland, until 2004. That came about because the Swiss agreed in an international negotiation to phase out the use of "Champagne" for the Swiss wine. It's there in the article. If two countries want to harmonize trade protection systems that have previously been separate, they negotiate. You say you're not interested in an "international law system," yet you ask about the "Swiss Champagne people," which is an international issue.
    – phoog
    Apr 7, 2017 at 1:23
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    It's about balancing competing interests. The idea is that people who were calling their wine Champagne without complying with the standard, especially those outside the region, were reaping an unfair benefit from the reputation that the Champagne region had established. So it's not unfair to require them stop calling their wine Champagne. It's not like they were there before Champagne established that reputation: why would anyone in Alsace start calling their wine Champagne for any other reason?
    – phoog
    Apr 7, 2017 at 3:02

1 Answer 1


Names like Champagne, Roquefort, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena have a special status under EU law, that these are Protected Designations of Origin, which states standards for the product and gives legal protection regarding use of the name. That limits what you can call "Roquefort" in the EU. These restrictions have not been legally relevant in the US and are still fairly widely ignored especially in the case of Champagne, although Parmigiano-Reggiano and Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena are not used as generic terms as Champagne or Asiago are. Violations in the EU may involve charges of counterfeiting, false advertising, or fraud. The essence of PDO designation is that it describes a product that is traditionally and wholely made in a geographic region and where the character of the product derives from that region (e.g. the grass that the cows eat). This protection does not operate in the US or Japan (as far as I can tell). There are some specific agreements between the EU and particular countries such as a wine and spirits agreement with South Africa, but PDO really only operates within the EU.

Otherwise, the applicable concept is "trademark". You could not register a trademark for "Champagne" in the US, because that is a generic term, but you could coin a new term like "Gorgonzeddar" for a greenish-orange cheese, and register it. From what I can determine about Japanese trademark law, you similarly could not register "Sake" as the name of a rice-based drink, since it is a general term. If you had an unused name that you want to protect, you can register a trademark, and you would need to register that trademark in every country of interest.

  • Parmiggiano-Reggiano may not be used generically in the US, but parmesan certainly is.
    – phoog
    Apr 7, 2017 at 1:21
  • Indeed, and parmesan is the general term for the P-R style cheese throughout the world – parmesan is not a PDO (there is no such place).
    – user6726
    Apr 7, 2017 at 1:35
  • There's no such place as parmigiano, either.
    – phoog
    Apr 7, 2017 at 1:37
  • I see. Maybe a key point is that the name of the place is directly in the name of the product. I found that Japan has 'regional collective trademark registration' (cf. Article 7-2 of Japanese trademark law linked from your answer) similar to PDO, since 2005. I also found that the Japanese trademark law sets some rules about what type of association or group can apply for such a regionally collective trademark. It also seems that this law also protects other parties who have used the same or similar name prior to the trademark registration (cf. Article 32-2).
    – norio
    Apr 7, 2017 at 1:39
  • @phoog according to Wikipeadia, it looks Parmiggiano-Reggiano is named after Parma and other provinces where this type of cheese has been produced. But, I don't speak Italian, and I'm not sure how the name of a place is turned into an adjective.
    – norio
    Apr 7, 2017 at 1:49

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