United States: Cava v. Champagne: A Trademark Lawyer's Guide

Last Updated: May 30 2017
Article by David A. Kluft

Those of you attending the annual International Trademark Association conference in Barcelona may be drinking a glass of Cava right now and wondering: what makes sparkling wine different from regular wine, and what is the real the difference between Cava and Champagne (or, as the great Zapp Brannigan pronounces it, "champagen")? Those of us stuck at home and not allowed to go to Barcelona – and no, we're not going to stop complaining about that anytime soon – may be wondering the same thing. Wouldn't it be great if you could get a judge to explain it to you?

It turns out that the question is answered in more detail than you probably want by District of Minnesota Judge Joan Ericksen's 35-page opinion in Roederer v. J. Garcia Carrion, S.A., 732 F. Supp. 2d 836 (D. Minn. 2010). In that case, the makers of CRISTAL Champagne (so named because it was sent to Tsar Alexander II in crystal bottles) brought a trademark infringement action against the makers of CRISTALINO Cava. The case was initially dismissed on laches grounds (CRISTAL waited to bring suit until about 15 years after CRISTALINO had entered the U.S. market), but the Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded, and the parties subsequently conducted a bench trial on the issue of likelihood of confusion. Judge Ericksen's detailed findings and conclusions began as follows:

  1. Still wine, or wine without bubbles, is made by a fermentation process that converts grape sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide in still wine is released by the wine producer after fermentation.
  2. Sparkling wine, or wine with bubbles, is made using a second fermentation process that converts still wine into sparkling wine. According to the traditional method, also known as the "Method Champenoise" or "champagne method," the second fermentation occurs in the bottle in which the sparkling wine is sold. The carbon dioxide is trapped in the bottle, dissolves into the wine, and escapes as bubbles when the sparkling wine is released from the bottle. According to the alternative "bulk" or "Charmat" method, the second fermentation takes place in a large tank or vat. After the second fermentation is complete, the contents of the tank are pumped into bottles for sale. The traditional method of producing sparkling wine results in higher-quality wine than the Charmat method.
  3. Champagne and cava are both sparkling wines. When used properly, the term "champagne" denotes a sparkling wine made according to the traditional method from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France. A vintage champagne is made from grapes of the same year's harvest. A non-vintage champagne is made from grapes of different years' harvests. The term "cava" denotes a sparkling wine made in the Catalonia region of Spain.

Got that? Both Champagne and Cava are sparkling wines, the former made from a blend of Champagne-region grapes and the latter from mostly (95%) Catalonian Macabeu grapes. Both beverages are fermented by a variation on the "Method Champenoise," also known as the "traditional method," which is acknowledged as the most desirable fermentation process for sparkling wine (as opposed to, for example, the "Charmat" method, which is how the Italians make Prosecco).

In her likelihood of confusion analysis, Judge Ericken goes on to talk about perhaps the most important difference between Cava and Champagne – and one close to my heart– price point. At the time, CRISTALINO Cava sold for as low as 8 bucks a bottle, while CRISTAL Champagne was commanding between $200 and $280 a "pop" (a difference you can justify in a variety of ways, including history, aspirational cachet, and the length of time the wine is aged on the lees).  This price difference means that, although the products are certainly in commercial proximity (i.e., sold at some of the same stores), they are not directly competing.

Perhaps because of the lack of direct competition, actual confusion evidence was hard for the plaintiff to come by. Despite the fact that the products were on the market together for twenty years, pretty much the only evidence of actual confusion that the plaintiff was able to come up with was that one time, a guy in Michigan bought some bottles of CRISTALINO thinking they were CRISTAL; but it turned out this happened only because the letters "INO" were covered up by the price sticker.

So does that mean that CRISTALINO Cava won the case? No. The Court found that there were too many likelihood of confusion factors going the other way, most obviously the similar names, but also similar bottles and trade dress. On top of that, it is industry custom for prestige wine makers to produce lower-priced versions of their product for us unwashed masses, making it more likely that consumers would think that CRISTALINO was the official junior varsity version of CRISTAL. And as to the fact that the products obviously come from different countries, CRISTALINO had somewhat blunted the force of that distinction by advertising itself as "made using the traditional method with yeast from the Champagne region of France."

The Court found that there was indeed a likelihood of confusion and, on July 27, 2011, issued a permanent injunction ordering the defendant to stop using CRISTALINO in association with the sale of Cava, unless certain conditions are observed, including that the word CRISTALINO be accompanied by the defendant's house mark (e.g., JAUME SERRA CRISTALINO). The Court also required a disclaimer of any connection with CRISTAL Champagne. Of course, the practical result of this disclaimer requirement is that the words "CRISTAL® Champagne" are now printed on the label of every bottle of CRISTALINO Cava. C'est Law Vie.

To view Foley Hoag's Trademark and Copyright Law Blog please click here

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions