The Comité Champagne (CIVC) has lost its long-running trademark dispute against Australian wine writer, educator and sparkling wine specialist Jayne Powell. Powell’s moniker “Champagne Jayne” is now a registered trademark.
The battle has been a protracted one. In 2013, the CIVC took legal action against Powell for using the nickname, claiming that she was misleading the public and infringing its trademark, because she was discussing other categories of sparkling wine alongside Champagne.
As the CIVC’s director of communications, Thibaut Le Mailloux, put it: “Comité Champagne opposes any misappropriation of Champagne by principle, regardless of the nature and size of the infringer.”
The evolution of Champagne Jayne
While Powell had used the name ‘Champagne Jayne’ for some time, she first used it formally in 2003, when she launched her WineWorks International business. In 2009, she registered ‘Champagne Jayne’ as a business name in Australia, and created a Champagne Jayne website and social media accounts.
Within a short period of time, her business was flying. In 2010 Powell helped create the world’s first global #champagneday on social media; in 2011 her book Great, Grand & Famous Champagnes: Behind the Bubbles, was awarded Gourmand’s 2011 Best French Wine Book (Australia) and in February 2012 she was named Harper’s 2012 International Champagne Educator of the Year. August turned out to be an exceptional month, because that’s when Powell’s ‘Champagne Jayne’ trademark application was accepted by IP Australia, the national trade mark registration authority.
The best was still to come: in September 2012, Powell became a Dame Chevalier de L’Ordre des Coteaux. The ceremony took place in Champagne, where Powell was ‘knighted’ by Pierre Emmanuel Taittinger.
But a shock awaited. Australian lawyers for Champagne discovered that Powell was discussing other sparkling wines as well. In September 2012, they lodged an opposition to the Champagne Jayne trademark.
“I said to myself, ‘Well, come on, I have won all these awards. I’ve been doing this for 10 years, and the CIVC would help me with my regular trips in Champagne,’ so I thought it was a bit ridiculous to suddenly turn around and say I couldn’t use the name anymore. I defended myself,” Powell told Meininger’s.
The battle began
There were three years of court appearances, failed mediation attempts, and mounting legal bills that prevented Powell from working. Finally, in October 2015, an Australian Federal Court judge determined that nobody could be prevented from having Champagne in their name, although Powell could no longer portray herself as a Champagne ambassador, or mention non-Champagne sparkling wines without a disclaimer.
Following Powell’s win, the CIVC continued its legal battle, pursuing Powell’s trademark application. Their opposition has been dismissed, as announced by the Australian Official Journal of Trade Marks on 25 May 2017.
Jayne Powell can now legally call herself Champagne Jayne.
“I’m delighted to report that for once the little guy has actually prevailed,” said Powell. “This is a significant legal win which restores my professional reputation and means I am finally free to continue my life’s work of educating and entertaining people about the world’s most enigmatic fine wines – Champagne and other world-class sparkling wines.”