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Wednesday, 14 November 2012

You're Okay, I'm Tokaj, he's a bit Tokajsky

A case of wine is always welcome when delivered to one's door with a cheery message of goodwill, but Case T-194/10 Hungary v Commission is something else: it's one of those cases that make you wish you'd never said you were interested int the protection of geographical indications.  This decision, handed down last week, is a ruling from the General Court of the Court of Justice of the European Union, which means that you can't ignore it, but it's only available in French and Hungarian, both of which pose problems for this particular puss.  Fortunately, the Kat's friends in Curia kindly prepared an English-too media release on this case, which is reproduced below with the occasional Kat comment:
"The General Court dismisses Hungary’s action for annulment concerning registration of the name ‘Vinohradnícka oblasť Tokaj’ in the E-Bacchus database in respect of Slovakia

That registration cannot be called into question since it was automatic on the basis of the protection which the name in question enjoyed in the European Union before the database was introduced

The Tokaj wine-growing region is located in both Hungary and Slovakia.

At Slovakia’s request, the Commission registered the protected designation of origin ‘Vinohradnícka oblasť Tokaj’ in the lists of quality wines produced in specified regions (QWPSR) published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 17 February 2006 and 10 May 2007.

On 31 July 2009, that is to say one day before the electronic register of protected designations of origin and protected geographical indications for wine (the E-Bacchus database) was introduced, a new list of QWPSR was published. At Slovakia’s request, that list contained a modification to the protected designation of origin published in earlier lists. The protected designation of origin ‘Tokajská/Tokajské/Tokajsky vinohradnícka oblast’ was therefore registered in the new list. The E-Bacchus database replaced the publication of the lists of QWPSR. On the basis of the new list, the protected designation of origin ‘Tokajská/Tokajské/Tokajsky vinohradnícka oblast’’ was registered in the E-Bacchus database in respect of the part of the Tokaj wine-growing region located in Slovakia.

... Slovakia sent a letter to the Commission requesting that it replace the protected designation of origin ‘Tokajská/Tokajské/Tokajsky vinohradnícka oblast’’ registered in the E-Bacchus database with the protected designation of origin ‘Vinohradnícka oblasť Tokaj’. In that regard, Slovakia stated that the designation ‘Tokajská/Tokajské/Tokajsky vinohradnícka oblast’’ had been wrongly entered in the list of QWPSR and that the name ‘Vinohradnícka oblasť Tokaj’, which appeared in Slovak legislation, was the basis on which registration in the list should be made.

After verifying that on the day that the E-Bacchus database was introduced the Slovak legislation in question included the name ‘Vinohradnícka oblasť Tokaj’, the Commission, in accordance with Slovakia’s request, amended the information contained in that database.

However, Hungary contested that amendment by making reference to the new Slovak law on wine, adopted on 30 June 2009 (entered into force on 1 September 2009), which includes the term ‘Tokajská vinohradnícka oblasť’. Hungary thus brought an action before the Court for annulment of the Commission’s registration of the protected designation of origin ‘Vinohradnícka oblasť Tokaj’ in the E-Bacchus database in respect of Slovakia.

In its judgment, the Court finds ... that wine names protected under EU law in force before the E-Bacchus database was introduced are automatically protected under the legislation in force since that database was introduced. The introduction of that database has not therefore changed the nature of the protection granted to those wine names, with the result that the protection granted did not depend on the registration of those names in the database. That registration is merely the result of the automatic transition, from one regulatory regime to another, of protection that has already been granted and is not a condition for the grant of that protection [so the fact that a wine's name is on the E-Bacchus database is indicative of protection, but not constitutive of it]. 
After the ruling, Bacchus
was unavailable
for comment
 
The ... protection granted to wine names under EU law in force before the E-Bacchus database was introduced was based on the wine names as determined by the legislation of the Member States. That protection did not therefore result from an autonomous Community procedure or even from a mechanism under which the geographical indications recognised by Member States were incorporated in a binding Community measure. In that regard, the Court finds that the Slovak legislation in force on 1 August 2009 – the day that the E-Bacchus database was introduced – and the basis for the Community protection of wine names so far as concerns the part of the Tokaj wine-growing region located in Slovakia, included only the name ‘Vinohradnícka oblasť Tokaj’, with the result that only that name was protected in the EU on that day.

In that context, ... the incorrect publication of the protected designation of origin ‘Tokajská/Tokajské/Tokajsky vinohradnícka oblast’’ in the Official Journal does not change the fact that, pursuant to the Slovak legislation which alone is relevant, the name ‘Vinohradnícka oblasť Tokaj’ enjoyed protection on 1 August 2009. Nor is the fact that the new Slovak law on wine – adopted on 30 June 2009 – included the name ‘Tokajská vinohradnícka oblasť capable of calling into question the protection enjoyed by the name ‘Vinohradnícka oblasť Tokaj’ on 1 August 2009, because that new law only entered into force on 1 September 2009. 
In those circumstances, ... as the name ‘Vinohradnícka oblasť Tokaj’ enjoyed EU protection before it was registered in the E-Bacchus database, that registration is not capable of producing legal effects. Having regard to the fact that, on the basis of the Treaty, the Court reviews the legality only of the acts of the institutions of the European Union intended to have legal effects, the Court dismisses the action for annulment brought by Hungary as inadmissible [which leaves the question of how a register which is not capable of producing legal effects can be amended, if a request to amend it is either refused or challenged by a third party]".
This Kat wishes that some background explanation had been provided. He is not an expert on Hungarian or Slovakian wines, but it seems to him that the words Tokajská, Tokajské, Tokajsky and Tokaj are closely related and he'd like to know the oenological, economic and legal significance of the difference between them. Can any of his readers enlighten him?

1 comment:

Rudo Leška said...

Well, regarding the language, while Tokajský/Tokajská/Tokajské are Slovak adjectives formed from the noun "Tokaj" (name of the region, the same in Slovak and Hungarian), the word "Tokaji" is (I guess) Hungarian adjective. You can thus say in Slovak "The region of Tokaj" (oblasť Tokaj) or "The Tokaj region" (tokajská oblasť).

I hope it helped a bit:-)

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