Originally published in Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law Committee Newsletter, October 2011.
"Portuguese great red wines are becoming more and more valuable in the international wine market. The Portuguese Douro wine region's vintages like Barca Velha, a superb full-bodied red wine from Casa Ferreira, rival its Spanish neighbour Vega Sicilia "Unico" from the Ribera del Duero region and other famous labels as Chateau Pétrus from Pomerol or Californian Opus One. It is no exaggeration to state that collections of vintage wines' more and more frequently include Portuguese great vintages not only at a local level but also in international events and auctions and that rapidly, small companies and auction players, both claiming expertise and reliable sources, are flourishing in the market.
However, some recent events within the Portuguese market or related to Portuguese wines such as the replacement of original labels and corks or inside trading linking evaluation experts of auction houses and sellers -, have resulted in a number of pending claims and disputes in connection with which issues such as the use of privileged information have to be settled by the courts. In this background the well known issue of the "crusade against counterfeiters" both in the Portuguese, as well as the international markets for Portuguese wines markets, merits careful consideration and tough initiatives to protect these banners of Portuguese winery home and abroad
All of us know that counterfeiting worldwide is a several hundred billion dollars/year industry, if we believe OECD data, and looks set to increase. The traditional legal rules and administrative tools made to protect national borders and national products are no longer responding to international counterfeiting using high tech and IT know-how and globalization appears to play against the effective enforcement of laws against counterfeit products. Counterfeit wine is part of this scourge of worldwide crime and has existed for more than a century.
Traditionally, the main counterfeit process was to buy a cheaper wine and change the label and the cork. But, in this specific market of great vintages, counterfeiters master new technologies, such as digital imaging that makes fake labels far easier to produce. On the other hand, few people have tasted truly great old wines and in some cases to detect a fake is almost an art. Worryingly, the market is full of bottles suspected of being counterfeits...