You've probably seen the term "Modena" on bottles of balsamic vinegar. That's because the region in Italy is famous for producing the stuff; in fact, since 2009 there's been a protected designation for the name "Aceto Balsamico di Modena," or "Balsamic Vinegar from Modena." However, a court ruled on Wednesday that competing vinegar producers are also allowed to use the term "balsamic," the BBC reports. Vinegar makers in Modena had launched their case in a German court after a German vinegar manufacturer started marketing vinegar-based products using the term "Balsamico," and it ultimately went to the European Court of Justice, the EU's top court. The Consortium for Balsamic Vinegar of Modena argued the "geographical indication" protection of "Balsamic Vinegar from Modena" should also be considered protection of each individual term.
The ECJ disagreed, noting that while GIs are meant to protect food and beverages "whose quality, reputation or other such characteristics relate to its geographical origin" (Modena vinegar makers use specific varieties of grape, aged for several years in wooden barrels), such protection "does not extend to the use of the individual non-geographical terms of that name." Both "balsamic" and "vinegar" are too common to be covered under the protection, the court ruled. As Sky News reports, the Consortium was not pleased. "We consider this decision totally unfair," it said in a statement. "Many European countries have sought to partially appropriate the global success enjoyed by the Balsamic Vinegar of Modena—the only vinegar to be sweet and sour and to use the word 'balsamic'—which was attributed to it many centuries ago by the Este dukes, who thought it was medicinal." (Read more Italy stories.)