By Giovanni Salvietti


A recent decision by the European Court confirmed that Chianti’s Black Rooster trademark must be granted protection at European as well as Italian level.




The legal question was simple enough. A Lazio company had asked the European Intellectual Property Office to register a coloured rooster as the distinctive mark of its Vermentino wine. This registration was opposed by the Chianti Classico Wine Consortium, owner of the long-established Gallo Nero [Black Rooster] trademark, a distinctive ‘brand’ for wines from our wine-growing area. According to the Consortium, the fame of the black rooster and the similarity with the coloured rooster could generate, in consumer perception, a link between the two brands, so much so that it could give an undue advantage to the Lazio company. A company that, for its part, emphasized the difference between the two roosters: while the black rooster is a collective brand and designates a series of red wines that come from Chianti, the coloured rooster is an individual brand relating to a Vermentino produced in Gallura, an area of ​​Sardinia which owes its name to the same bird. Asked to rule on the request for registration of the coloured rooster, the European Intellectual Property Office compared the two trademarks and, essentially agreeing with the arguments from Chianti, rejected it. As a result, the Lazio company asked the European Court to rule on the refusal of registration.


Well, with a verdict dated the 14th April 2021, the European judges confirmed the block on the registration of the coloured rooster. In fact, the Court came to the conclusion that the conditions exist to protect the black rooster, previously registered and well identified, with respect to the distinctive coloured rooster of the Vermentino. In fact, not only are the two brands similar, but the Lazio company could have taken advantage, in its sales activity, of the fame achieved by the black rooster over time. Thus, even if an element would seem to differentiate the two roosters: with the black rooster identifying Chianti and the coloured rooster symbolizing Gallura, with the consequence that the two brands, referring to the quite different geographical origin of the wines, would not seem compete. However, according to the European judges, brands also refer, in the perception of consumers, to the image of the rooster, thus assimilating them on a conceptual level and so able to influence consumers’ purchasing choices.

The black rooster is therefore also now protected at European level, which has reaffirmed its identity and uniqueness, as if it were indeed rara avis in terris (“a rare bird upon the earth”). The expression, from Latin poet Juvenal and taken up in sixteenth-century philosophical debate, indicates the possibility that a fact is more unique than rare, that it is in fact original. Just like the black rooster — which distinguishes Chianti wines, known for their history, tradition and quality – for which it could be possible, following a sort of poetic license, to reformulate the Latin expression as rarus gallinaceus in terris .


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