Balsamico and an Italian-German legal conflict

food-3360720_960_720.jpgThe Advocate General of the European Court G. HOGAN has issued his opinion in case C‑432/18 Consorzio Tutela Aceto Balsamico di Modena v BALEMA GmbH. The case concerns the following:

BALEMA GmbH produces vinegar-based products and markets them in the Baden region (Germany). For at least 25 years, it has been selling products under the designations ‘Balsamico’ and ‘Deutscher Balsamico’. The labels on its products bear the legend ‘Theo der Essigbrauer, Holzfassreifung, Deutscher Balsamico traditionell, naturtrüb aus badischen Weinen’ [Theo the vinegar brewer, matured in wooden barrels, German balsamic vinegar, traditional, naturally cloudy, made from Baden wine] or ‘1. Deutsches Essig-Brauhaus, Premium, 1868, Balsamico, Rezeptur No 3’ [first German vinegar brewery, premium, 1868, balsamic, recipe No 3].

It is agreed that BALEMA’s products designated as ‘Balsamico’ are not covered by the registration ‘Aceto Balsamico di Modena (PGI)’ pursuant to Article 1 of and Annex I to Regulation No 583/2009 because they do not fulfill the product specifications contained in Annex II of that regulation.

Consorzio Tutela Aceto Balsamico di Modena (‘the Consorzio’) is a consortium of producers of the products designated by the name ‘Aceto Balsamico di Modena’. It considers that BALEMA’s use of the designation ‘Balsamico’ infringes the protected geographical indication ‘Aceto Balsamico di Modena’. The Consorzio thus served a warning notice on BALEMA. BALEMA, in turn, brought an action in the German courts against the Consorzio seeking a negative declaration to the effect that there had been no trade mark infringement. That action was unsuccessful.

In the appeal on the merits, BALEMA sought a declaration that it is not obliged to refrain from using the designation ‘Balsamico’ for vinegar-based products produced in Germany. The appeal on the merits was upheld as the court considered that the use of the name ‘Balsamico’ in respect of vinegar did not infringe Article 13(1)(b) of Regulation No 1151/2012. According to that court, the protection for the name ‘Aceto Balsamico di Modena’ granted by Regulation No 583/2009 was conferred only on the entire name and not on the non-geographical components of the term as a whole, even if used jointly.

The case was appealed to the referring court.

The referring court considers that the appeal on a point of law will succeed if the names ‘Balsamico’ and ‘Deutscher Balsamico’ used by BALEMA infringe Article 13(1)(a) or (b) of Regulation No 1151/2012. According to that court such a finding would require that the protection of the entire name ‘Aceto Balsamico di Modena’ granted by Article 1 of Regulation No 583/2009 also covers the use of the individual non-geographical components of the term as a whole (‘Aceto’, ‘Balsamico’, ‘Aceto Balsamico’).

The Federal Court of Justice notes that it is clear from the second subparagraph of Article 13(1) of Regulation No 1151/2012 and the case-law of the Court that, pursuant to Article 13(1)(a) or (b) of that regulation, a protected geographical indication that consists of several terms can be protected against not only the use of the entire indication, but also against the use of individual terms of that indication. The second subparagraph of Article 13(1) of Regulation No 1151/2012 governs the specific case in which a protected geographical indication contains within it the name of a product which is considered to be generic. That provision stipulates that the use of that generic name is not to be considered to be contrary to Article 13(1)(a) or (b) of that regulation. The Federal Court of Justice also refers to the fact that the Commission regulation registering the name may restrict the scope of the protection of a protected geographical indication that consists of several terms so that it does not cover the use of individual terms of that indication. In that regard, the fact that an applicant may state that it does not seek protection for all elements of a name shows that the protection granted by its registration can be restricted.

The Federal Court of Justice considers that recitals 3, 5 and 10 of Regulation No 583/2009 militate in favor of a restriction of the scope of protection to the name ‘Aceto Balsamico di Modena’ as a whole, to the exclusion of individual non-geographical components. It also considers that, contrary to the view taken in the appeal on a point of law, the assumption that protection is granted to the name ‘Aceto Balsamico di Modena’ as a whole did not give rise to an inconsistency with the registration of the protected designations of origin ‘Aceto balsamico tradizionale di Modena’ and ‘Aceto balsamico tradizionale di Reggio Emilia’. Contrary to Regulation No 583/2009, the references to a restricted scope of protection in Regulation No 813/2000, which may be attributable to the fact that there was no opposition by Member States pursuant to Article 7 of Council Regulation (EEC) No 2081/92 (now Articles 51 and 52 of Regulation No 1151/2012) in the preceding registration procedure, does not preclude a restriction of the protective effect of the name ‘Aceto Balsamico di Modena’ as a whole.

In those circumstances, the Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice) decided to stay the proceedings and to refer the following question to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling:

‘Does the protection of the entire name “Aceto Balsamico di Modena” extend to the use of the individual non-geographical components of the term as a whole (“Aceto”, “Balsamico”, “Aceto Balsamico”)?’

The Advocate’s position is:

The protection of the entire name ‘Aceto Balsamico di Modena’ under Commission Regulation (EC) No 583/2009 of 3 July 2009 does not extend to the use of the individual common words or non-geographical components, namely, ‘Aceto’, ‘Balsamico’ and ‘Aceto Balsamico’.

Some answers regarding the EU Copyright reform

flag-2608475_960_720.jpgThe European Commission published answers to a variety of questions regarding the Copyright reform that has been approved recently. The questions are as follow:

1. The European Parliament voted on the new copyright rules at EU level – what are they about?
2. Why do we need to modernise the EU copyright rules?
3. Are the new copyright rules limiting users and their freedom online?
4. Will the Directive impose upload filters online?
5. Will the Copyright Directive prevent users from expressing themselves on internet in the same way as now? Will memes and GIFs be banned?
6. How will the new Copyright rules tackle the discrepancy between the remuneration of creators and that of certain online platforms (the so-called ‘value gap’)?
7. How will the new copyright rules on user-uploaded platforms benefit the users?
8. What are the services covered by the new rules on user-uploaded platforms?
9. What will be the special regime for startups and smaller enterprises?
10. What will happen to online encyclopaedias (like Wikipedia) that are based on content uploaded by users?
11. How will the new press publishers’ right work?
12. Are small and emerging press publishers going to be affected by the reform?
13. Is the new Copyright Directive creating a “hyperlink tax”?
14. With the new rules, will the use of “snippets” be forbidden?
15. How will the new Directive benefit journalism and journalists?
16. How will the Directive ensure fair remuneration for individual authors and performers?
17. How will the new copyright rules strike a fairer balance in the relationships between creators and their contractual partners?
18. What is the contract adjustment mechanism? Does it interfere with contractual freedom?
19. What is the revocation mechanism and why is it needed?
20. What are the new exceptions to copyright laid down in the Copyright Directive?
21. How will the new copyright rules benefit researchers?
22. What is the purpose of the other, general, text and data mining exception?
23. Who will benefit from the new teaching exception?
24. Will the new copyright rules enhance the preservation and availability of cultural heritage?
25. What will it change for users with regards to “public domain” content?
26. How will the new copyright rules foster the availability of EU audiovisual works on video-on-demand platforms?

You can find the answers here.

Irish whiskey is now protected EU Geographical indication

drink-3108436_960_720.jpgThe European Commission confirmed the Irish whiskey status as a protected European Geographical indication. The scope of protection covers different variations of this whiskey such as malt Irish whiskey, pot still Irish whiskey, grain Irish whiskey, and blended Irish whiskey.

Irish whiskey has been known since the 6th Century. In the 19 Century, its production rose significantly and in the 20 Century, it became worldwide known.

In the future, this whiskey will be produced only on the territory of Irland under strict requirements and approved methods.

This is a strategic step for the Irish Whiskey Association because it gives an opportunity for legal protection against unfair competition and infringements. What’s more, the protection of this Geographical indication will be included in future trade negotiations between The EU and third parties which by itself is crucial for the Association taking into account its global sells.

Breaking News – The EU Council approves DSM Directive

The EU Council has approved the DSM Directive. You can see how every Member State voted below:

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The next step is the transposition of this Directive into the national legislation of every EU Member State, which has to be done within 24 months.

Source: IP Kat.

A dispute over geographical indications can threaten the trade deal between the EU and Australia

bigstock-Australia-flag-with-european-u-133799099.jpgAs it is well-known the EU is negotiating with Australia for a $100 billion trade deal similar to those signed with Canada and Japan.

In that regard, the EU’s Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan expressed his concerns about the deal after the last meeting between the parties in Canberra.

As in all other deals, the EU expects all of its geographical indications to cover the other party’s territory after the deal, which aim to protect the European producers of traditional products.

The problem in the case of Australia, however, is that many local manufacturers have been using European geographical indications, such as Prosecco and Feta for free for decades. The EU insists that to be discontinued. On the other side, the Australian government tries to support its producers in an attempt to avoid eventual economic disturbance for them.

In most of the cases, such disputes end with a grace period after which the relevant producers have to seize the use of the protected geographical indications or in some cases at least to add the name of the country in front for a distinction.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

Brief IP news

briefs_1131.   First Edition of the EUIPO Trade Mark and Design Education Programme. For more information here.

2. Pharmaceuticals: European Commission refines intellectual property rules. For more information here. 

3. Vtree Energy: Building a solar future through intellectual property. For more information here.

Source: Intellectual Property Center at the UNWE. More information can be found here

Breaking news – EU attacks China before the WTO for unfair technology transfers

314410706_smallThe European Commission initiated a legal proceeding against China before the World Trade Organisation. The reason for that move was alleged unfair practices regarding technology transfer and intellectual property set by the Chinese legislation.

The main problem here is the requirement that every European company that wants to enter the Chinese market has to share technologies and intellectual property with a domestic partner.

According to the European Commision, this practice is against the WTO’s rules and can be identified as unfair and not market-based.

Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said: “Technological innovation and know-how is the bedrock of our knowledge-based economy. It’s what keeps our companies competitive in the global market and supports hundreds of thousands of jobs across Europe. We cannot let any country force our companies to surrender this hard-earned knowledge at its border. This is against international rules that we have all agreed upon in the WTO. If the main players don’t stick to the rulebook, the whole system might collapse.”

Source: European Commission.