We are proud to report that our colleagues Christofer Eggers and Christian Boehler successfully represented Balema GmbH in its dispute with Consorzio Tutela Aceto Balsamico di Modena. The ECJ held that that the term “Balsamico” is not protected as a designation of origin and geographical indication.
The key question of the legal dispute that began in 2015 is whether the protection afforded by the registration of the entire name “Aceto Balsamico di Modena” also extends to the use of individual non-geographical components of that name, namely the terms “Aceto,” “Balsamico” and “Aceto Balsamico,” and whether the exception under Art. 13(1) subparagraph 2 of Regulation (EU) No. 1151/2012 on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs (basic Regulation) applies, specifically whether the term “Balsamico” can be considered a generic term in the present case and, therefore, a breach has not been committed.
Balema GmbH, from Kehl in the German state of Baden-Württemberg, produces handcrafted, high-quality natural vinegar products made exclusively from fresh raw ingredients, which are produced by farmers and winegrowers in Germany. The company founder Theo F. Berl has a patented process for producing vinegar resulting in a special balsamic vinegar, such as the “Balsamico 1868,” which ages from German wine in oak barrels.
The Consorzio Tutela Aceto Balsamico di Modena, based in Modena, Italy, consists of more than 50 member companies, whose objective is to protect and sell balsamic vinegar nationally and internationally. The association is officially recognized by the Italian Ministry for Agriculture, Food and Forestry for the protection of specialty foods.
This case attracted international interest from the governments of Germany, Greece and France, which all hold the view that the terms “Aceto,” “Aceto Balsamico” and “Balsamico” are generic terms or non-geographical names and only “Aceto Balsamico di Modena” as a whole should be protected.