The strange case of the protection of Piadina Romagnola PGI


With the fading memories of summer days spent at the seaside, this article will focus on the protection of Piadina Romagnola as a PGI. This is a flat bread made of dough produced in the area around the Italian Adriatic coast of the Romagna Riviera and a popular summer snack.

The PGI protection for "Piadina Romagnola" was not easily achieved. It was filed in 2011 but only registered on 24 October 2014.

This delay was due to disagreements among the producers in the area protected by the PGI: the producers of the handcrafted Piadina Romagnola (usually based in small kiosks) did not agree in being associated with the industrial producers of Piadina Romagnola also based within the PGI area.

These disagreements led to the filing of national oppositions - although these were all rejected in any event.

The Piadina Romagnola PGI has also been the subject of a complex dispute whereby CRM Srl (Modena, Italy)("CRM") has sought the annulment of the Implementing Regulation No. 1174/2014 by which Piadina Romagnola was finally registered as a PGI (CRM v Commission Ref  (GC; T-43; 28 January 2015)).

CRM is an Italian company producing bakery products, including a flat bread named Piadina Romagnola. CRM is, however, based in Modena, i.e. outside the PGI area, although it has been producing Piadina Romagnola for a few decades.

CRM took to the CJEU after it failed to succeed in the Italian Courts.

Rather than filing an opposition in the national phase of the PGI application, on 29 March 2013, CRM had filed a complaint at the Lazio Regional Administrative Tribunal ("TAR Lazio"), requesting the annulment of the Ministry directive granting the transitional protection to the GI and all the related official acts. The grounds of the complaint mainly concerned the lack of a relevant link with the territory.

The decision of the TAR Lazio (dated 15 May 2014) led to a very debatable outcome.

It established that the availability of a production technique outside the territory of the PGI does not prevent the registration. Moreover, the Court stated that the purpose of a PGI is not, or is not only, to protect a production technique but also to protect goods, whose reputation has a connection with the territory of origin.

However, protection, where based on the reputational link, can only be established for goods produced according to the traditional technique. Therefore on the one hand, the PGI Piadina Romagnola could be used by producers both inside and outside the protected region, but it could only be used by producers using traditional handcrafting rather than industrial processing

The decision of TAR Lazio was appealed by the Italian authorities and reversed by the Council of State in December 2014. The Court did not see why the production in the kiosks deserves different treatment to that of industrial production. Besides, the relevant EU legislation does not consider, among the requirements for obtaining a PGI, a higher or a lower "level of industrialisation" in the production.

Following that decision, the Commission adopted the Implementing Regulation no. 1174/2014 concerning the registration of "Piadina Romagnola" as a PGI with the consequence that CRM would no longer be entitled to use "Piadina Romagnola" for its products.

In the light of this outcome, CRM filed the application for suspension of enforcement of the Implementing Regulation in the General Court of the CJEU. The President of the Court issued a reasoned order on 24 April 2015.

Firstly, the President evaluated the circumstances of the Italian dispute and the TAR’s decision finding that, CRM having failed to file the opposition nationally, had lost its only chance to take advantage of the adjustment period to keep on using the PGI legitimately.

The President affirmed that CRM did not act diligently and was now bound to bear all the consequences of this.

The president also affirmed that even if CRM had acted diligently it would not have satisfied the requirements for obtaining the suspension since it had failed to establish both the urgency of the situation and enough evidence of irreparable damage.

Lacking the urgency, the President did not consider it necessary to investigate whether a prima facie case had been established and thus rejected the suspension requested.

This article is part of the 3rd edition of the Food Law Digest 2015.