Defending a Designation of Origin (DO) for Wines such as the DO Vinho Verde is a daily, complex and not very visible task for consumers and professionals in this field. The Vinho Verde Wine Commission (CVRVV), one of the 14 Managing Bodies of Wine DOs in Portugal, handles the defence and legal protection of the DO Vinho Verde as a strategic mission by delegation of the State.
Although the region was demarcated by law in 1908 and the name “Vinho Verde” simultaneously recognised, its registration as a DO was granted in Portugal in 1971 by the Industrial Property Office and in 1973 by the World Intellectual Property Organization, after a long procedure led by the CVRVV on behalf of many generations of professionals in the region.
With the accession of our country to the EEC in 1986 and to the European policy for quality of agricultural products, the DO Vinho Verde was legally recognised as a European DO and subsequently included in the European Union (EU) registration in the category of “Protected Designation of Origin” (PDO-PT A1545). Currently, there are 30 Portuguese wine DOs registered in the EU, out of a total of 1178 DOs of all the Member States.
The CVRVV has also registered the DO Vinho Verde in 43 countries outside the EU and to date there are a total of 86 registrations in 70 countries around the world.
In simple terms, we can say that a wine DO is the name, whether geographical or not, ascribed to a region and used to designate a wine which: (1) comes from grapes exclusively harvested and vinified in the region; (2) has specific quality and characteristics, deriving from the natural and human factors of the region; (3) and is certified by the competent regional entity, which grants a seal of warranty to be affixed on the bottle, after having verified that the wine fulfils the standard requirements.
Due to the socioeconomic importance that they have acquired, DOs are nowadays considered as effective competition instruments, which guarantee a good functioning of the market and the promotion of quality products. DOs enable professionals in this sector to differentiate their product on the market and act against unfair competition, while at the same time protecting consumers against erroneous consumption decisions. They also foster the development of the wine producing regions, through the appreciation of regional tradition and identity and the use of local resources in product preparation.
For these reasons, many countries have their own legal protection system for DOs, which confers on them protection against any damaging practices. As happens with the other winegrowing DOs, the DO Vinho Verde is protected by law against any acts liable to mislead consumers as to the product’s origin, particularly against the commercial use of the whole or part of the DO: (1) on wines that were not certified by the CVRVV; (2) or which jeopardises (exploits or dilutes) their good name and/or reputation; (3) or which evokes or imitates it, even if translated into another language.
In view of the specific nature of the name of the DO Vinho Verde, a non-geographical name with the term “Verde” having a variety of meanings, the majority of defence cases are against the registration and/or use of trademarks or references for wines with the term “verde” or its translation into other languages. Therefore, the CVRVV usually acts against the commercial use of part of the name of the DO (the term “Verde”) which consists of an evocation of the DO, given that it leads consumers to associate the term “verde” with the DO Vinho Verde. However, when cases involve the registration of trademarks with the term “verde” for wines of the DO Vinho Verde, the CVRVV acts against the commercial use of part of the name of the DO which constitutes an exploitation or dilution of the good name of the DO. It was precisely to prevent the dilution and popularisation of the name of the DO that the CVRVV proposed in 2010 the creation of a legal standard which prohibits it from certifying wines bearing trademarks with the term “verde”.
This is the strategy that the CVRVV has adopted for defending the DO Vinho Verde in each of the 70 countries where the DO has been registered, through extrajudicial agreements and administrative and/or judicial proceedings. On average, the CVRVV handles more than 100 cases each year, with a minimum annual budget of €50,000.
Article published (in Portuguese) in the newspaper Vida Económica issued on 14/01/2022.
©️Patrícia País Leite | Head of the Legal Department of the Vinho Verde Wine Commission.
Translation by Ana Borges.