Switzerland: Absinthe denied geographical indication

The Swiss Federal Administrative Court (FAC) has ruled that the terms ‘absinthe’, ‘fée verte’ (green fairy) and ‘la bleue’ are generic terms, and cannot be used only by Switzerland-based producers of the spirit.

In its August 8 decision, the court overturned a 2013 decision by the Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG) that confirmed registration for the denominations as protected geographical indications.

The Association interprofessionnelle de l’absinthe’s request for geographical indications was allowed by the FOAG in 2010. There were 42 objections to its decision, and 21 appeals filed at the FAC. In the August 8 ruling, 11 of these appeals were upheld.

The court found that a 2007 survey on which the Association interprofessionnelle de l’absinthe had based its arguments was flawed in “several respects”, as it showed that only a small proportion of people in Switzerland associated the three terms with the Swiss region of Val-de-Travers.

Citing dictionary definitions and usage of the term in legislation, the court said that it considers the denomination ‘absinthe’ to be a generic name.

“The FAC feels that this denomination refers to a type of good, regardless of its origin, and not to a product originating specifically from Val-de-Travers,” it said in a statement on the court’s website.

It also ruled that the Association interprofessionnelle de l’absinthe failed to “adequately demonstrate” that ‘fée verte’ and ‘la bleue’ are not generic names.

“According to the FAC, there is no reason to justify reserving the denominations ‘absinthe’, ‘fée verte’ and ‘la bleue’ solely for producers in Val-de-Travers and therefore the FOAG’s decision of  August 14, 2012 confirming registration of these denominations as PGI [protected geographical indications] must be annulled,” the statement continued.

The judgment is subject to appeal before the Federal Supreme Court.

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