'Made in Italy' indication is lawful, says Supreme Court
The Supreme Court of Cassation (Criminal) has found that the use of the indication 'made in Italy' for agricultural products processed in different countries is lawful under Article 517 of the Criminal Code where the last significant stage of the manufacturing process took place in Italy (Decision 27250, July 12 2007).
On September 25 2006 the Ravenna Court granted a request for the seizure of labels bearing the indication 'made in Italy' for boxes of fruit salad. Much of the fruit had been grown abroad and some of the processing had taken place outside of Italy.
The Ravenna Court of Appeal (Criminal) revoked the order. The court held that the issue is regulated by Article 4, Paragraph 49 of the Fiscal Law (350/2003), under which the indication 'made in Italy' is misleading when used in connection with products which do not originate from Italy under the EU Customs Code (Council Regulation 2913/1992). Where a product originates from only one country, Article 23 of the Customs Code applies; where the manufacturing process takes place in more than one country, Article 24 of the code provides that the country of origin is deemed to be the one in which the last significant transformation took place. According to the court, Article 24 also applies to agricultural products in the absence of a protected designation of origin or geographical indication. In the case at hand, the manufacturing process carried out in Italy was considered to be significant; therefore, Article 24 applied and it was lawful to use the indication 'made in Italy'.
The public prosecutor of the Ravenna Court appealed to the Supreme Court of Cassation. The prosecutor claimed that under Article 23 of the Customs Code, fruits and vegetables are deemed to have been produced outside the territory of Italy not only where they are grown in a foreign country, but also where further manufacturing processes took place outside Italy.
The Supreme Court of Cassation rejected the appeal and affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeal. It found that the law had been correctly applied in this case, stating that the place of origin of agricultural products is deemed to be the place of growth only where the products are protected by a designation of origin; in all other cases the place of origin is identified pursuant to the provisions of the Customs Code.
Where fruits and vegetables are sold without undergoing any processing or originate from only one country, Article 23 of the code stipulates that the place of origin is the place where the products have been harvested. Where - as in the case at issue - the products have been processed in more than one country, Article 24 of the code states that the place of origin is the country in which the latest transformation or substantial manufacturing process took place. As the last stage of the manufacturing process of the boxes of fruit salad took place in Italy, the use of the indication 'made in Italy' was lawful.
Margherita Bariè and Pietro Pouchè, Carnelutti Studio Legale Associato, Milan
Copyright © Law Business ResearchCompany Number: 03281866 VAT: GB 160 7529 10