Australian Treasury Wine Estates (TWE), the world’s largest standalone winemaker, has initiated legal action in Australia’s Federal Court against a copycat brand.
It alleges that Adelaide-based wine-seller Rush Rich has been imitating its Penfolds brand in China.
In the Asian country, its Penfolds brand wines are profitable and sold under the brand name Ben Fu, which is the Mandarin transliteration of Penfolds.
TWE claim that the copycat wine is being sourced and bottled through bulk wine suppliers and third party bottlers in South Australia and then packaged with labels that mimic the look of the Ben Fu trademark.
The wine company first became aware of the existence of products impersonating its Ben Fu brand at the Chengdu wine festival in 2017.
What was said:
TWE chief executive Michael Clarke said:
We have become aware of a number of copycat operators that are taking illegal and unfair advantage of the success of iconic brands such as Penfolds.
The infringing products and misleading claims these operators are making, and the association they falsely claim to have with our brands are unconscionable.
TWE said in a statement: “[It] is believed to be sourced and bottled through bulk wine suppliers.. then exported under labels that copy the look and feel of Penfolds wines, infringing TWE’s rights to the Penfold and Ben Fu trademarks.”
Chief executive of the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia told Reuters:
Our strong regulatory system is pivotal to our export success.
This success relies on the integrity and quality of our wine – a reputation that is put at risk by copycat wines.
What this means:
China is Australia’s largest wine export market and it is increasing in size. In the six months to 31 December, TWE recorded a surge in profit due to 60% growth in the market.
Thus TWE are very concerned by the concept that another brand could be profiting from its brand recognition.
In January 2017, the Beijing High People’s Court awarded TWE exclusive rights to use and market the Ben Fu trademark in China.
The court concluded that the Chinese citizen who had registered the Ben Fu trademark in 2099 had failed to demonstrate any genuine use of it for wine or other related businesses.
It cancelled the Chinese individual’s trademark and said TWE could claim ownership.
TWE president and managing director for Asia and Europe Rober Foye said:
Ben Fu is the most widely recognised wine brand in China – this is due to the fact that we have a long and strong history of actively marketing high quality Penfolds wine using this Chinese transliteration.
Protecting the integrity of our historic wine brands against trademark piracy is critical. We have never wavered in our commitment to defend our position as the rightful owner of the Ben Fu trademark in China, and we are absolutely thrilled with this decision.
Other suppliers from Australia and New Zealand from wine to lamb to honey have been stepping up efforts to combat fakes.