EU Court Dismisses Hungary’s Lawsuit against Slovakia’s Wine Registration
On November 8, 2012, the General Court of the European Union rejected Hungary’s attempt to annul Slovakia’s registration of the name ‘Vinohradnícka oblast’ Tokaj’ in the EU’s electronic database of protected designations of origin and protected geographical indications for wine (the E-Bacchus database).
Tokaj is the wine-producing region located along the two countries’ border.
Following Slovakia’s request, the European Commission (EC) registered the protected designation of origin ‘Vinohradnícka oblasť Tokaj’ in the 2006 and 2007 lists of quality wines produced in specified regions.
On July 31, 2009, one day before the E-Bacchus database was introduced, Slovakia requested that the designation be modified to ‘Tokajská/Tokajské/Tokajsky vinohradnícka oblast’ in the new database. However, later that year Slovakia requested that the name be changed back to ‘Vinohradnícka oblast’ Tokaj’, and the EC satisfied the request.
Hungary, which had previously registered the name ‘Tokaji’ as the protected designation of origin, opposed this last amendment by Slovakia on the grounds that the latest Slovak law on wine, in force as of September 2009, includes the term ‘Tokajská vinohradnícka oblasť and not the term ‘Vinohradnícka oblast’ Tokaj’.
However, the General Court ruled in Slovakia’s favor stating that the term ‘Vinohradnícka oblast’ Tokaj’ was protected under the law in force before the E-Bacchus database was introduced and therefore automatically protected under the legislation in force since the database was introduced on August 1, 2009. The new Slovak law did not come into force before September 1, 2009. The Court therefore concluded that the publication of the protected designation of origin ‘Tokajská/Tokajské/Tokajsky vinohradnícka oblast’’ did not change the fact that the name ‘Vinohradnícka oblasť Tokaj’ enjoyed protection on August 1, 2009.
Prepared by: Masa Lopicic
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Source: General Court of the European Union press release on the case
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