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Misusing the term “leather” - Is the 'vegan leather' label misleading consumers?
29 October 2019


Regina Henkelof Fashion United writes that in its judgment of 10th September 2019, the German district court in Hanover decided that it is not misleading to consumers when handbag manufacturers label vegan products with the terms ‘vegan leather’ or ‘apple leather’. Does that make sense?

A contradiction in terms: vegan leather

Everybody is familiar with terms like ‘vegan sausage’, ‘soy milk’ and ‘vegan leather’ and it is clear that vegan sausages contain no meat and soybeans no milk. The same is true for vegan leather, which is not made from skin and can therefore never be leather.

However, some people do not appreciate this blending of contradictory terms. In 2017, a court prohibited manufacturers of milk alternatives to use the word ‘milk’ in their product name. Thus, ‘soy milk’ became ‘soy drink’. And for some time now, even the association of the German leather industry (VDL) has been wanting to stop ‘vegan leather’, ‘apple leather’ or ‘mushroom leather’ to be called such because it is not leather.

In a legal dispute with the German manufacturer of vegan leather handbags Nuuwai, the district court of Hanover has now ruled that these terms are permitted. The VDL had argued that they were misleading and anti-competitive.

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