September 2021 | by Lili
Swiss Army Knives are known for their versatility. They can be screwdrivers, can openers, scissors, and… they can be made in China?
The Munich District Court I doesn’t think so.
A trader from China sold souvenir knives online that resembled the famed Swiss Army Knives to the dot. Red color? Check. Swiss flag? Check. Protruding useful (or completely baffling) tools? Check. The only difference: a clear “made in China” sign on the package.
Yet the maker of the original Swiss Army Knives wasn’t happy and decided to take the matter to court.
In its judgement, the Munich District Court I declared that the term “Swiss Army Knife” refers to a well-known geographical origin that is associated with a certain type of high quality product. Therefore, regardless of the fact that “Made in China” was displayed on the product in question, it still exploited the well-established name and reputation of the original Swiss Army Knives.
Not to mention the fact that the product indeed looked like the real deal.
A genuine Swiss Army Knife with its many tools
Swiss Army Knives aren’t the only products protected by geography. In fact, the EU has devised a whole system of geographical indications (GI), where a product’s “quality, reputation or other such characteristics relate to its geographical origin.”
This mostly concerns agricultural products, food, beverages, and local specialties. For example, the famed Nürnberger Lebkuchen (a special type of gingerbread) or Berliner Kümmel (a herbal liqueur made with characteristic spices) can only be products created in the geographical location of Nürnberg or Berlin respectively.
There are two main categories of protection distinguished within the EU framework: Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PDI).
PDOs are products that have the strongest ties to a region. In order to receive such a status, the entire production process has to happen in the geographical region in question, including the sourcing of ingredients. In the case of PDIs, the system is a bit more lenient: at least one stage of the production process has to occur in the region. For example, both Lebkuchen and Kümmel are PGIs.
PDOs, PGIs, and any other trademarks are very important for traditional and cultural reasons. In many cases, local products are deeply embedded into the history and culture of a region, so local producers put more than mere physical ingredients into the famed product. When taking a bite, you can almost taste the age-old traditions and culture of a region.
But a trademark is only as strong as its enforcement. No matter how many signs you put on a product packaging, they won’t be more than colourful illustrations unless there’s somebody to ensure that everybody plays by the rules.
Gingerbread cookies stacked on a sales table
Brands that produce PDOs, PGIs, or any other products protected by a geographical trademark have a vital interest in protecting those trademarks. After all, if any Chinese manufacturer can put together a Swiss Army Knife or a Nürnberger Lebkuchen, the value of the original product will be diminished.
This is why when such brands invest in brand protection, they protect more than themselves: they protect the entire trademark, and consequently, their region’s history, heritage and culture. If brands behind beloved local products team up to protect their trademarks, globaleyez will be there to take on this new challenge.
There are several ways we can ensure that violators of PDOs or PGIs are found and their threat eliminated.
Our powerful software tools check over 150 online marketplaces, looking for unauthorized product listings that feature PDOs and PGIs. Adjustable filters, including place of origin ensure that only relevant results are listed.
Based on those results, a test purchase helps us determine which products are indeed fakes. Moreover, our extensive test purchase documentation is admissible in court, which is invaluable when it comes to gathering tangible evidence for a court case against the fraudsters.
To separate small fish from big players, we use marketplace sales tracking to determine sales values and turnover.
Finally, our enforcement service ensures that IP-infringing listings are removed from the marketplaces and thus become unavailable to customers.
Protecting trademarks is a very important part of our job as online brand protection experts. We’re excited to extend this and offer our highly scalable services to brands that produce geographically protected products.