LG Magdeburg: German Consumers Misled by False Indication of Origin

If certificates or marks of origin are used for promotional purposes but the products are produced elsewhere, this may constitute an infringement of competition law. That was the verdict of the Landgericht (LG) Magdeburg [Regional Court of Magdeburg].

A long company tradition can be an important factor for businesses when it comes to advertising. This is also true of certificates or marks of geographic origin as a way of emphasising the regional origin of a product. Having said that, it is well known that the mark of origin for various food products does not necessarily match the place of production. Such were the circumstances in the case of a brewery located in Saxony-Anhalt.

It promoted its beer with textual references to a long brewing tradition in Magdeburg. However, the beer is in fact brewed in Franconia. The Wettbewerbszentrale [Centre for Protection against Unfair Competition] therefore sued for an injunction against this advertising based on false indications of origin, arguing that this represented a violation of trademark law and misled consumers as to the geographical and commercial origin of the drink.

The LG Magdeburg granted the legal action (Az.: 36 O 103/15). It stated that consumers would have understood the information pertaining to the long brewing tradition and origin to mean that the beer had actually been brewed in or around Magdeburg. The Court, sitting in its 36th Chamber competent for commercial matters, went on to say that this misled consumers and infringed trademark law. Accordingly, it banned the advertising in question. The ruling is not yet final.

Advertising is crucial for a lot of businesses. That being said, it can also prove to be a bit of a balancing act, as it is easy, even unwittingly, to commit violations of competition law when advertising, in particular against Germany’s Gesetz gegen den unlauteren Wettbewerb (UWG) [Unfair Competition Act]. These kinds of infringements of competition law can potentially give rise to severe penalties, such as formal written warnings, damages claims or injunctions suits. These have the potential to drag businesses into costly and protracted legal disputes. Lawyers who are competent in the field of competition law are able to support businesses both in fending off as well as enforcing claims in response to violations of competition law.

GRP Rainer LLP is an international firm of lawyers and tax advisors who are specialists in commercial law. The firm counsels commercial and industrial companies and corporations, as well as associations, small- and mid-sized businesses, self-employed freelancers and private individuals worldwide from offices in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart, and London UK.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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