Napa Valley Champagne? Resolving the Ongoing Tension Between Geographical Indications and the Trademark System

By Victoria Hines

In January 2013, the Champagne Bureau, a lobbying organization based in Washington, criticized the Obama administration’s decision to list “Korbel Natural Russian River Valley Champagne” on the menu of the inauguration dinner. To them, Champagne is characteristic of Champagne, France, and thus California wineries are mislabeling their wines by using the Champagne label. 117 countries are sympathetic to this sentiment, and protect the Champagne name, while the U.S. allows the label to be used by wine produced outside the Champagne region. Several agreements, including the WTO’s TRIPS Agreement, have included increased protections for geographical indicators of various products over the past two decades, yet the U.S. has consistently failed to follow suit in offering its own protections. However, the U.S. may now be more willing to protect such geographical indicators not only for wine, but also for other food products, such as feta cheese and Darjeeling tea.