Slovenian pumpkin seed oil gets GI status despite Austria's objections

The Styrian pumpkin seed oil (‘Štajersko prekmursko bučno olje’), which originates from the eastern Slovenian regions of Styria and Prekmurie, is the 15th Slovenian product to be entered into the European Union’s register of protected designations of origin and protected geographical indications.

Slovenia applied to register ‘Štajersko prekmursko bučno olje’ as a geographical indication (GI) on October 29 2004, but the application led to opposition by natural and legal persons from neighbouring Austria on the grounds that a trademark including the term ‘Steirisches Kürbiskernöl’ ('Styrian pumpkin seed oil'), as well as the GI ‘Steirisches Kürbiskernöl’, had been registered in Austria prior to Slovenia’s application.

Styrian pumpkin seed oil is also a speciality of the region of Styria in southeast Austria.

Austrian objections noted that the Slovenian term ‘Štajersko’ is a literal translation of the German term ‘Steirisches’ and that, when translated into other languages, the two registrations may be similar. However, the Austrian opponents provided no evidence that there was a likelihood of consumer confusion; moreover, the terms ‘Štajersko prekmursko bučno olje’ and ‘Steirisches Kürbiskernöl’ are different in their original languages.

The European Commission asked the two countries to reach an agreement among themselves in accordance with their internal procedures. As Slovenia and Austria did not reach an agreement within the prescribed timeframe, the European Commission concluded that there was no reason why the Slovenian product could not be entered into the EU register.

The European Commission noted that references to the Slovenian regions of Štajerska and Prekmurje (Styria and Prekmurie) should not be translated into other languages when marketing the products, and that the country of origin should be indicated on the labels.

Maja Žnidarič, PETOŠEVIĆ, Ljubljana

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