UK: General Court holds that Traditional Speciality Guaranteed designation cannot be obtained where registration would conflict with other EU product labelling rules

03 July 2015

Toby Bond

Czech Republic v European Commission (GC (Second Chamber); T-51/14; 12.05.15)

The General Court (GC) has upheld the European Commission's decision to reject the Czech Republic's application for registration of ‘pomazánkové máslo’ (spreadable butter) as a traditional speciality guaranteed (TSG) under Regulation 509/2006 and its replacement Regulation 1151/2012 (the 'Quality Schemes Regulation'). 

The product in question fell outside the milk fat content (and other material content) requirements set out in Regulation 1234/2007 (the 'Single CMO Regulation') which specified the conditions for use of the sales description ‘butter’.  Whilst that regulation made an exception for the use product designations 'the exact nature of which is clear from traditional usage', attempts by the Czech Republic to have pomazánkové máslo included in the exhaustive list of products covered by this exception had been rejected.  The non-compliance of the use of pomazánkové máslo with the Single CMO Regulation had subsequently been confirmed by the Court of Justice in Case C-37/11.  

The Czech Republic applied for registration of pomazánkové máslo as a TSG on 22 December 2010.  By way of Implementing Decision 2013/658/EU, made on 13 November 2013, the Commission rejected the application citing non-compliance with the Single CMO Regulation and the Court of Justice's decision to that effect. The Czech Republic appealed the Commission's decision to the GC.

The GC upheld the Commission's decision.  The Commission had been correct to consider whether the use of pomazánkové máslo was allowable under the Single CMO Regulation when assessing the registerability of that term as a TSG.  The Quality Schemes Regulation expressly provided in Article 2(3) that 'this Regulation shall apply without prejudice to other specific Union provisions relating to the placing of products on the market and, in particular, to the single common organisation of the markets, and to food labelling'.  The Czech Republic's argument that the Commission should have limited its deliberations to the criteria specified in Article 18(1) of the Quality Schemes Regulation, setting out when a name is eligible for registration as a TSG, was contrary to the literal interpretation Article 2(3).  It was also contrary to the purpose of EU rules on product labelling as it would allow producers to circumvent the Single CMO Regulation, conferring on them an unfair competitive advantage and misleading consumers and the Czech Republic's application must therefore be rejected.

This article is part of the Food Law Digest for July 2015.

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