Balsamic vinegar can also come from Germany. According to a judgment of the ECJ from December 4, 2019, “balsamico” is not a protected term (Az. C-432/18).

We at the commercial law firm MTR Rechtsanwälte note that geographical designations of origin are eligible for protection because consumers associate them with a certain quality. But according to a judgment by the ECJ, balsamico need not come from Modena in Italy and can equally come from Germany.

The case concerned a dispute between an Italian consortium and a German company. The consortium had registered the name “Aceto Balsamico” for its balsamic vinegar from Modena as a protected designation of origin and protected geographical indication. It demanded that the German company cease selling vinegar products using the term “balsamico”, arguing that the name infringes a protected geographical indication.

The ECJ took a different view, ruling that the protection extends only to the name as a whole, not to individual non-geographical components. It held that aceto (vinegar) is a common term and balsamico a common adjective referring to flavor. The court found that consumers do not associate use of the term balsamico itself with geographical origin.

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