The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) recently rendered a decision stating that the term “balsamic” could be used to label vinegar or bittersweet flavorings even if they are not from the region of Modena.
Modena, located in Northern Italy, is worldly famous for its balsamic vinegar made from several grape varieties. Considering that the term “Aceto Balsamico di Modena” was registered as a geographical indication in 2009, the term has been exclusively used by the producers in the province of Modena for labeling their products.
Couple of years ago, the producers in the province of Modena sought their rights arising from the geographical indication of “Aceto Balsamico di Modena” against a German company Balema, based in Baden, which was labeling its vinegar-based products as “balsamico” and “deutscher balsamico” (German balsamic). The dispute was firstly discussed before German Courts, then the CJEU.
As a result, CJEU recently ruled that the “The term ‘aceto’ [vinegar] is a common term and the term ‘balsamico’ [balsamic] is an adjective that is commonly used to refer to a vinegar with a bittersweet [flavor]” which was clarified as the subject geographical indication protection of the name could not apply to non-geographic words such as “aceto” (vinegar) and/or “balsamico” (balsamic).
In other words, the CJEU determined that the non-geographic nature of the words “aceto” (vinegar) and/or “balsamico” (balsamic) prevented their exclusive use. Even though the geographical indication of “Aceto Balsamico di Modena” can only be used by producers within the specific region of Modena, there could not be any restrictions as to the sole use of “aceto” (vinegar) and/or “balsamico”.
In the meantime, it was noted that the disputed terms also appeared in another protected geographical indication from a neighboring province in Italy as “Aceto Valsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia”.