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Wednesday 22 October 2014

Krug producers go head-to-head

7th February, 2014 by Rupert Millar

Champagne Krug is negotiating with an Austrian producer also called Krug in a trademark tussle but both sides have different stories.

Krug Austria

Krug wines from Austria

The luxury Champagne house has said it is negotiating with the Austrian producer over sparkling wine in conjunction with the use of the Krug name, the Austrian appears to claim that he is simply being sued over his name.

Gustav Krug from the Thermenregion south of Vienna produces 250,000 bottles a year with a range that spans Grüner Veltliner, Zweigelt, Riesling and even Rotgipfler according to the Austrian Wine Marketing Board.

However, Champagne Krug has explained the two wineries had agreed to co-exist in name until Champagne Krug learned that its Austrian namesake was producing a sparkling wine.

Krug has not to date filed any lawsuits against Weingut Krug but, in a statement to the drinks business, said it was “enforcing its trademark rights” after “unconcluded negotiations.”

It explained: “In 2007, the House of Krug amicably approached Krug Gumpoldskirchen GmbH, in order to find an agreement to avoid any risk of association or confusion between what each had to offer.

“At that time, as it is still the case today, the House of Krug used the name Krug for its Champagnes, and Krug GmbH used the name Krug for its still wines.

“After unconcluded negotiations, the House of Krug contacted Krug Gumpoldskirchen GmbH again, during 2013, when the House of Krug discovered that it was now also producing a type of sparkling wine under the name Krug.

“The House of Krug owns trademark rights in Austria dating back to 1960 and is actively enforcing its trademark rights worldwide against any kind of infringement.

“To date, The House of Krug has not entered into a lawsuit against Krug Gumpoldskirchen GmbH and both continue to sustain an amicable conversation in order to reach a satisfactory solution.”

Various reports in the Austrian media meanwhile have been more belligerent and implied there had been the threat of a lawsuit.

Websites such as Format.at have made it appear that the tussle is a straight argument over the name in a “David and Goliath” struggle and have made no mention of sparkling wine being the root of the issue.

Many have pointed to the fact that there is apparently documentation from 1746, signed by the Empress Maria Theresa herself, referring to “Krug” wines from the town of Gumpoldskirchner where the family is still based and has run a “heuriger“, a tavern, since 1549.

This makes the producer nearly 100 years older than Champagne Krug which was founded in 1843 by Joseph Krug, a German immigrant born Johann Krug in Mainz in around 1800.

Format also adds that Krug claims he has been asked to change his domain name from krug.at.

“No one can make me change my name,” he said adding that he had registered it on Austria’s “first come, first served” name registration principle.

Another Champagne house, Veuve Clicquot, recently grabbed headlines with the news it was talking with a Prosecco producer about trademarks, this time over the colour of labels.

“Krug” in German merely means “pitcher”, a container for liquids with a spout and handle.

Gustav Krug was not immediately available for comment.

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