5 December 2019TrademarksSaman Javed

CJEU rules ‘balsamico’ vinegar does not have to come from Modena

The geographical indication ‘Aceto Balsamico di Modena’ does not extend to the use of non-geographical terms such as ‘aceto’ and ‘balsamico’, the Court of Justice of the European Union ( CJEU) has ruled.

In a ruling yesterday, December 4, the CJEU said the terms could not be protected because ‘aceto’ is a commonly used and ‘balsamico’ is an adjective that is commonly used to refer to a vinegar with a bitter-sweet flavour.

The geographical indication, which covers balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy, has been registered and protected since 2009.

The dispute comes after Balema, a German company which produces and sells vinegar-based products made from wines from the Baden region, started using the terms ‘balsamico and deutscher balsamico’ on its product labels.

But, Consorzio Tutela Aceto Balsamico di Modena, an organisation made up of more than 50 producers of products designated by the name ‘Aceto Balsamico di Modena’, requested that Balema refrain from using the term ‘balsamico’.

In response, Balema brought an action before the German courts seeking a declaration that it has the right to use that term for those products.

The German Federal Court of Justice asked the CJEU to determine whether the GI only covers the full name, ‘Aceto Balsamico di Modena’, or whether it extends to the use of non-geographical terms such as ‘aceto’, ‘balsamico’ and ‘aceto balsamico’.

In today’s judgment, the court emphasised that the full name ‘Aceto Balsamico di Modena’ has a strong reputation in the national and international market, but the terms in dispute do not. This is because they are common, or often used as adjectives.

Christofer Eggers, a partner at Squire Patton Boggs, who represented Balema, welcomed the decision.

“I am very happy that the ECJ has agreed with our view and that we have been able to achieve ultimate success for our client after years of legal proceedings. In addition, we are happy that this ruling finally ensures that balsamico can legally come from Germany,” Eggers said.

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