German company allowed to use words aceto balsamico to market its vinegar products
Italian producers of balsamic vinegar have lost a legal challenge at the EUs top court to prevent a German company from using the names aceto or aceto balsamico to market its vinegar products.
The Consortium for Balsamic Vinegar of Modena sued the company, Balema, on the premise that it had violated the use of the geographical food designation term aceto balsamico di Modena (balsamic vinegar of Modena), which has been in place since 2009 and can only be used by producers in Modena, in the Emilia Romagna region.
The German firm, based in Baden, had been labelling its products with the terms balsamico and Deutscher balsamico (German balsamico).
But judges at the court of justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled on Wednesday that the term aceto balsamico di Modena does not extend to the use of non-geographical individual terms. The court determined that the name aceto is common and that balsamico is an adjective commonly used as a reference to a vinegar with a bitter-sweet flavour. Therefore, while the trademark aceto balsamico di Modena cannot be counterfeited, aceto balsamico can be freely used.
The legal battle had dragged on for years, with Balema appealing to Germanys federal court of justice to clarify whether the Modena designation also applied to non-geographical terms. The German court then referred to the case to the CJEU last year.
The original balsamic vinegar of Modena is made from a reduction of pressed grape varieties including trebbiano, sangiovese and lambrusco grapes. The resulting thick syrup, called mosto cotto, is aged for a minimum of 12 years, sometimes for more than 100, in cherrywood, chestnut or ash barrels.