TN distillery stopped from brewing French Cognac
The Madras High Court has restrained a firm in the State from manufacturing and selling a branded liquor saying the brand name ‘French Cognac’ enjoyed Geographical Indication (GI) protection and that it exclusively belonged to a French company.
Passing interim orders on the France-based Bureau National Interprofossionnel du Cognac, Justice R Sudhakar said the court was of the firm opinion that the applicant was entitled to protection under the provision of the GI Act.
Cognac, pronounced kon-yak, was a variety of brandy named after the town of Cognac, located 465 km west of Paris. To qualify to be an authentic cognac, it should be twice distilled and made from a white grapes variety called Ugni Blanc. It should be aged at least two years in French oak barrels. The GI Registry in India granted GI protection to the product in December 2010.
While so, on January 11, 2012 the Prohibition and Excise department of TN government issued an order permitting Pudukottai-based KALS distilleries to market four varities of ‘French Cognac brandy’ in the State.
On coming to know about the infringement, the French company wrote to the State government objecting to the move and bringing to its knowledge the GI tag given to the conglomerate. After a series of correspondence, the Prohibition department finally relented and issued a GO on February 9 this year stating that the four varieties of brandy had been renamed without any reference to the French products’ name.
Not satisfied with the change of nomenclature, the French company filed the present suit saying the mere attempt to infringe its GI rights was enough to file a petition to stop the TN company and its agents from infringing the original Cognac’s rights and privileges.
Concurring with its submissions, Justice Sudhakar said the fact remains that the TN company had already indicated to the government that it wanted to market a product named Cognac. “Till the matter is resolved, the court is of the opinion that Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac is entitled to protection under the provision of the GI Act.”