Breweries and vineyards that have established a strong brand for an alcoholic drink that is named after the town or locality in which it is made, can be banned from using this geographic marketing if it expands production to different locations, the European Court of Justice has ruled.

The case involved established brewer Warsteiner Brauerei Haus Cramer GmbH & Co. KG, from Warstein, northwest Germany, where it has made the popular Warsteiner beer. It was taken to court by a German consumers organisation after it started producing Warsteiner beer at another town, Paderborn, 40km away.

The association claimed that the brewer mislead drinkers by calling its beer Warsteiner, and won a ruling banning its use, citing German and EU rules of geographic origin, even though back labels said that the beers were brewed in Paderborn and that it was agreed the beer has no special local qualities.

The brewer appealed and the case was sent to the ECJ for guidance. Its judges ruled that European law allows such a ban, even where there "is no link between the characteristics of the product and its geographical provenance."