08/05/2014 - Associazione fra produttori per la tutela del SALAME FELINO v. Kraft

On 8 May, 2014 the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issued its decision in case No. C-35/10 on the geographical denomination “SALAME FELINO”, following the 2012 request by the Italian Supreme Court (Corte di Cassazione) concerning the interpretation of Article 2 of Council Regulation (EEC) No 2081 of 14 July 1992 on the protection of geographical indications and designations of origin for agricultural products and foodstuffs (Regulation (EEC) 2081/92), in force at that time.

“SALAME FELINO” is a pure pork salami sausage, produced in the town of Felino, located in the province of Parma. When the dispute aroused, “SALAME FELINO” had not yet obtained recognition at the EU level. The dispute in fact dates back to 1998, when the “Associazione fra produttori per la tutela del SALAME FELINO” (“Associazione fra Produttori”), and its 12 member companies, brought an action before the “Tribunale di Parma” against Kraft Jacobs Suchard SpA (today Kraft). Kraft was accused of unfair competition under the relevant Italian Law (Legislative Decree No 198/1996) for marketing a salami under the geographical denomination “Felino”, which was manufactured outside the Felino area. Kraft opposed this claiming that the applicable law was the Regulation (EEC) 2081/92, under which the denomination “SALAME FELINO” was not recognised and therefore not protected.

In 2001, the “Tribunale di Parma” found that “Associazione fra Produttori” could not rely on Regulation (EEC) No 2081/92, but rather on the relevant national law. Furthermore, the Court held that the conduct of Kraft constituted an act of unfair competition, having “Salame Felino” acquired a reputation among consumers with respect to its characteristics and origin. Kraft appealed the decision before the Court of Appeal of Bologna, alleging that the national law conflicted with Regulation (EEC) No. 2081/92. The appeal was dismissed and Kraft lodged an appeal to the Italian Supreme Court. Following this, the Italian Supreme Court requested a preliminary ruling to the CJEU to assess the conditions under which a geographical denomination may be used to designate a product manufactured outside of the relevant zone, when such denomination is not recognised at the European level as a designation of origin or a geographical indication.

The CJEU ruled that Council Regulation (EEC) No 2081/92 must be interpreted as meaning that it does not afford protection to a geographical denomination which has not obtained a Community registration. The use of such denomination, though, falls under national law, such as the one on unfair competition, provided that, first, the implementation of that legislation does not undermine the objectives pursued by Regulation (EEC) No 2081/92, and, secondly, it does not contravene the principle of the free movement of goods under Article 28 EC, matters which have to be determined by the national court.

 Read the JUDGMENT OF THE COURT

 The case will now send back to the Italian Supreme Court. Meanwhile, “SALAME FELINO” entered in the EU register as a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) on March 2013. 

 

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