Consorzio Tutela Aceto Balsamico di Modena v. Balema GmbH

Squire Patton Boggs has successfully advised Balema GmbH in proceedings before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and has supported the company through all court instances in these proceedings.

The ECJ ruled that the term “Balsamico” is not protected as a designation of origin and geographical indication and, therefore, did not follow the opinion of the applicant Consorzio Tutela Aceto Balsamico di Modena.

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.

In his final opinion, the Advocate General agreed 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.

Balema GmbH (which stands for Badische Lebensmittel Manufaktur), 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.

The Squire Patton Boggs team advising Balema was led by partner Dr. Christofer Eggers (Picture) and associate Dr. Christian Böhler in Frankfurt and had been supported before the German Federal Court of Justice by Dr. Brunhilde Ackermann, Federal Court of Justice Lawyer, Karlsruhe.

Involved fees earner: Christian Boehler – Squire Patton Boggs; Christofer Eggers – Squire Patton Boggs;

Law Firms: Squire Patton Boggs;

Clients: Balema GmbH;