TWE starts legal action over copycat producer

19 February, 2018 by Andy Young

Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) has kicked off legal action in the Federal Court of Australia against Rush Rich, over alleged trademark infringements of the Penfolds brand, including use of TWE’s Ben Fu trademark in China.

Ben Fu is the Chinese translation for Penfolds and TWE has initiated the court case to stop Rush Rich infringing on its rights in both Australia and China. TWE said that without the action, the reputation of its iconic brands could be “significantly damaged”.

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TWE’s CEO Michael Clarke said it was “critical” for Australia’s producers, industry bodies, authorities and government to take action in order to protect the long term reputation and success of Australian wine in export markets from a few copycat operators.

“We have become aware of a number of copycat operators that are taking illegal and unfair advantage of the success of iconic brands such as Penfolds,” Clarke said.

“The infringing products and misleading claims these operators are making, and the association they falsely claim to have with our brands are unconscionable. We are putting on notice any bad faith operators in Australia – and anyone working with these operators – that this exploitation will not be tolerated.”

“There is no doubt that the Penfolds brand has played an instrumental role in the success Brand Australia is enjoying overseas. With this success comes the predatory behaviour of sophisticated copycat operators, which is bad for consumers, bad for Australian brand owners and bad for the Australian wine industry.

“What’s worse is that some of this copycat product is being made and labelled in Australia – we must work to put a stop to this,” he added.

The case against Rush Rich is one example of TWE’s strategy to take legal action both in Australia and internationally to protect its brands against infringing products. It follows the landmark legal win in the Beijing High People’s Court in China in January 2017 that supported TWE’s lawful right to use and market the Ben Fu trademark in China.

The concerns raised by Clarke are supported by industry organisations including the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia (WFA).

“Over recent years, the Australian wine industry has enjoyed huge success in overseas markets. This success relies on the integrity and quality of our wine – a reputation that is put at risk by copycat wines being exported from Australia,” WFA Chief Executive, Tony Battaglene said.

“Our strong regulatory system is pivotal to our export success. While we support individual brand owners protecting their IP rights through individual legal action, WFA will continue to work with the Australian Government to ensure we have the right regulatory measures in place to prevent copycat products jeopardising the continued export growth of Australian wines and its benefits to the broader Australian community.”