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French crème de cassis producers stop Chinese firm using Dijon name

The China intellectual property administration agreed that allowing a Chinese wine and spirits company to use the brand ‘Dijon’ would ‘give rise to confusion’

20 April 2021
Crème de cassis bottles. French crème de cassis producers stop Chinese firm using Dijon nameCrème de cassis Dijon is mainly produced by four major liqueur companies in the town itself: Briottet, Gabriel Boudier, Lejay, and L'Héritier-Guyot.
By Hannah Thompson

French producers of the blackcurrant liqueur crème de cassis have won their battle to stop Chinese alcohol producers from using the name “Dijon”.

French crème de cassis producers from the commune of Dijon (Côte-d'Or, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté), who produce their liqueur in that town only, have successfully stopped a Chinese company from placing the name “Dijon” on any of the bottles it might produce.

In July 2019, national quality group l'Institut national de l'origine et de la qualité (INAO) alerted Dijon producers’ union le Syndicat des fabricants du cassis de Dijon to a request by an unnamed Chinese wine and spirits company to use the word “Dijon” in French and Chinese.

Dijon crème de cassis is not sold much in China but it is very sought-after in Japan, which is its leading export market.

French producers said that the Chinese company’s use of the “Dijon” brand was therefore a threat to their protected geographic producer status, “Cassis de Dijon”, which was granted on August 7, 2013.

This status requires that all crème de cassis be produced (or “steeped”) in the commune of Dijon, and have at least 200 grams of blackcurrant per litre.

The union and the INAO detailed their claim to the China National Intellectual Property Administration.

On December 3, 2020, the Administration found in favour of the French producers, and acknowledged that allowing the Chinese company to use the “Dijon” brand was likely to “give rise to confusion and an incorrect identification”.

The registration of such a brand in China was “maliciously-intended and would leave the door open to future registrations of similar brands”, it said.

The decision was made official on Monday this week (April 19).

Claire Briottet, union president and director of the Maison Briottet, one of the four crème de cassis producers in Dijon, hailed the move as a victory. 

She said: “We are overjoyed. They could [previously] have written ‘Crème de Cassis Dijon’ on a bottle of water and added sugar and flavouring, and inundated the market.”

Ms Briottet said that the victory was “symbolic” as it protects “the name of the area and the international brand”.

The other major producers in Dijon are Gabriel Boudier, Lejay, and L'Héritier-Guyot.

The decision comes as the liqueur celebrates its 180th anniversary since its creation in 1841. It was then that a Dijon cafe owner, Auguste-Denis Lagoute, created a recipe for crème de cassis production that enabled it to be industrialised on a wider scale, and later become a local speciality.

In France, crème de cassis is often used to make the drink kir, which is traditionally mixed with Burgundy white wine. 

It is named after Félix Kir, who was mayor of Dijon from 1945 to 1968; although the history of such a mix goes back further, to 1904, when it was reportedly first drunk by previous mayor Henri Barabant (mayor from 1904 to 1908).

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