The acid test for vinegar

5th December 2019

A consortium of Italian vinegar producers, The Consortium for Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, have failed in their attempt to force a German company from using the term “balsamico” (balsamic) to market its vinegars.

The phrase “aceto balsamico di Modena” (balsamic vinegar of Modena) has been protected as a Geographical Indication (GI) since 2009 and can only be used by producers in the Modena region. The German company, Balema, based in Baden, Germany, had been marketing its products as “balsamico” and “Deutscher balsamico”.

A case was brought in Germany and, this week, ended up at the court of justice of the European Union (CJEU) which found that the protected term aceto balsamico di Modena “does not extend to the use of non-geographical individual terms”. In reaching this finding the court determined that “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 bitter-sweet flavour”. It also made reference to the existence of another GI relating to balsamic from a neighbouring region, Reggio Emilia, “Aceto balsamico tradizionale di Reggio Emilia”.

The result will have left a sour taste in the mouths of the Italian vinegar producers, meaning they cannot prevent competitors from elsewhere using the term balsamic to market their vinegars.

For expert advice on intellectual property and trade mark matters, contact Ben Evans or another member of our specialist team.

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