The European Union's (EU) protected designation of origin (PDO) system that defends scores of EU traditional drinks from being copied outside their home region has been weakened.

The European Court of Justice has ruled this week that official consumer watchdogs have no legal duty to police these rules for imported products. If a Hungarian vineyard produces a sparkling wine called Champagne, for example, French regulators would have to fight in Hungarian courts, not Hungarian consumer authorities.

The division of responsibility over policing these protected drinks rights was previously unclear. Under the EU's PDO laws, many beers, wines, spirits and mineral waters must be made by traditional methods in their historic home region to carry names listed in the regulation.

The court ruled in a case involving generic cheese being sold in Germany as Parmesan, saying: "Responsibility for monitoring compliance with the… PDO does not… lie with the German inspection authorities."