Champagne Producers Win Case, But Perfume Wins With Sales
Dec. 15, 1993
PARIS (AP) _ In a duel between two famed French luxury items, an appeals court Wednesday sided with Champagne producers and ordered Yves Saint Laurent to stop selling his perfume with the bubbly's name.
But while the haute couturier lost the appeal, the extra publicity from the court battle didn't hurt sales of the fragrance. Au contraire, company officials said, the perfume won at the cash register.
To keep selling the scent, the designer will simply take the Champagne label off the bottles when the order takes effect Dec. 31, company officials said.
''It won't have a name,'' said spokeswoman Catherine Chevalier, though the designer's label will remain.
The label change will cost about $1.7 million, said Jean-Paul Leon, director of finance at government-owned Elf-Sanofi, parent group of the designer house.
The court could have ordered an immediate sales ban. But giving the designer until after Christmas to comply will give holiday shoppers time to snap up the endangered Champagne bottles as collectors' items, perhaps further boosting sales.
The $17 million used to launch the perfume in Europe, Africa and the Middle East in September has already made back from twice that figure in sales, Leon said.
''The product has won,'' he told a news conference.
In fact, the Champagne region of eastern France including Epernay and Reims, were ''our hit parade of sales,'' said Claude Sauget, director general of Yves Saint Laurent perfumes.
But he added: ''We never wanted to fight with the Champagne people. We have a profound respect for them.''
''If they sold a few bottles thanks to this kind of publicity, so much the better. We didn't want them to bite the dust,'' Jean-Michel Ducellier, of the Interprofessional Committee of Wine and Champagne, told a rival news conference a few blocks away.
Outside France the perfume will keep the Champagne name, though growers have filed lawsuits in Germany and Britain. It goes on sale in the United States in spring after a Valentine's Day promotional kickoff, officials said.
The Paris appeals court upheld an Oct. 28 ruling that the Yves Saint Laurent's use of the name could ''weaken the notoriety'' of the Champagne- producing region. A 1990 law forbids using the Champagne label on other products.
The court rejected the argument by lawyers for Saint-Laurent that the perfume would enhance the bubbly wine's reputation.