German court permits apple leather name for vegan bags

Nuuwai, a leather goods German brand, will be allowed to keep talking about its own accessories in terms of “apple leather” products: in other words, they are still entitled to use such term, “leather”, despite the fact that their materials have nothing to do with animal skin. Such was the ruling delivered, on August 20, by a German court to which VDL had formerly appealed. The association of German tanners, headquartered in Berlin, was expecting, of course, another judgement, as they hoped that judges would forbid Nuuwai from using improperly the “leather” term. On the one hand, there are no European Union regulations, strongly requested by Cotance for the records. Yet, on the other hand, there are several legal precedents, as well as a few European guidelines (such as the 94/11/CE one about footwear labelling, along with guidelines approved by the European Commission in May 2016 for the implementation of the 2005/29 CE Regulation about eco-friendly leather). According to these rules, the leather term may only apply to some materials that specifically derive from the processing of animal body scraps. Nevertheless, a German court decided to make an exception in favour of Nuuwai.

The judgement

The District Court of Hannover will make public grounds for its decision on September 10. For the time being, we know for sure that the Court considers the apple leather definition to be potentially misleading to consumers, specifically because such material (apple skin, manufactured by an Italian company) does not derive from animals: in fact, it is made of polyurethane, together with fabrics and apple fibres. Yet, on the other hand, German judges also believe that the brand label “PETA – Approved Vegan”, currently used by Nuuwai, is fair enough to let buyers know that the item is not made of animal skin at all. All even then. “There must be a judge in Berlin”, Bertolt Brecht once said. Better not this time.

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