Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) has secured a landmark win in China highest court, after the Supreme People’s Court of China (SPCC) ruled against Penfolds copycat operator Rush Rich.

The longstanding court battle has been running for six years in a litigation process spanning courts in Australia and China, during which time TWE has won all cases. This ruling by the SPCC declared that Rush Rich’s registration of the Chinese character mark for Penfolds Winery – 奔富酒园 – is invalid.

The court said its decision was made on the grounds of bad faith and Rush Rich’s illicit conduct in registering multiple trademarks for a number of luxury global brands including Penfolds and Bentley.

Penfolds’ Managing Director Tom King said the judgment and the long-running legal dispute highlights both China’s commitment to protecting intellectual property rights, and TWE’s zero tolerance approach to infringement of its world-renowned brands.

“We welcome the judgement by the Supreme People’s Court of China and thank the Chinese authorities for their continued support in protecting the rights of luxury brand owners,” King said. “Penfolds has a long and proud heritage in China that’s been protected and nurtured since the first bottle of wine was exported from South Australia to Shanghai in 1893.

“Our long-term commitment to China, together with international legal protections to prevent infringement of our trademarks, gives our consumers the confidence to continue enjoying award-winning quality wine from the Penfolds collection.”

Anna Olsen, Global Director of Intellectual Property for Treasury Wine Estates, added: “Protecting the integrity of our historic brands against trademark piracy and misappropriation has always been a global priority.

“We’ll spare no effort to protect our brands and will pursue our rights to the highest courts where necessary. This case shows we won’t tolerate attempts to exploit and infringe the intellectual property rights and reputation of brands in the Treasury Wine Estates portfolio.”

The decision was also welcomed by Wine Australia, which has adopted a number of measures to protect the integrity and international reputation of Australian wine.

Rachel Triggs, General Manager ESG and Market Access at Wine Australia, said: “The protection of Australian wine brands overseas is essential to maintaining Australia’s exceptional reputation for quality and authenticity in the global marketplace, and failure to do so could have a long-lasting deleterious effect on the future of Australian wine exports.”

The importance of Penfolds’ brand integrity in China was highlighted earlier this year  when TWE announced plans to launch a Penfolds China wine, which will be made in China from grapes that have been grown in the country.

TWE’s CEO Tim Ford said: “We’re confident we can produce a premium Chinese Penfolds that maintains the distinctive Penfolds house style and uncompromising quality.

“China has always been an important market for us, and we look forward to continuing to deepen our relationships and affinity with our consumers and the broader Chinese wine community.”

Meanwhile the most recent Wine Export Report showed the true impact of the tariffs the Chinese Government has put on Australian wine, with the value of exports to China in the 12 months to 30 June 2022 being $25m: in the 12 months to August 31 2020, Australia exported $1.1bn worth of wine to China.

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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