EU court rejects claim against German vinegar manufacturer

Balsamic vinegar producers in Italy have criticised the EU court, after an appeal to stop a German manufacturer using the name “aceto balsamico” in marketing vinegar products was rejected. Attempts to sue the company have also been rejected, resulting in anger from some producers.

A German company in Baden has been labelling some of its products with “balsamico” and “Deutscher balsamico” – meaning “German balsamico”. However, since 2009, there has been a rule in place saying these terms can only be used by producers in Modena and the Emilia-Romagna region.

Because of this, the German company, Balema, faced legal action from The Consortium for Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, who argued that they had violated the correct use of the geographical food designation term, aceto balsamico di Modena (balsamic vinegar of Modena).

But, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled in Balema’s favour, saying that the term aceto balsamico di Modena “does not extend to the use of non-geographical individual terms” and that balsamico is, instead, a word that can be used to describe a vinegar with a bitter-sweet flavour.

They added that, while the trademark phrase aceto balsamico di Modena refers to products made in a particular area, and can only be used by them, the phrase aceto balsamico on its own does not, and can, therefore, be used by the German firm to market its products.

Mariangela Grosoli, the president of the Consortium for Protection of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, said in a statement: “We consider this decision to be totally unjust. The reality is that many European countries have partly wanted to appropriate the worldwide success achieved by Balsamic Vinegar of Modena – this is the only vinegar to be sweet-and-sour and to use the word ‘balsamic’, a word that was attributed to it many centuries ago by the Este dukes, who thought it was medicinal.”

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