Food Law News - EU - 2002
Commission Press Release (IP/02/422), 15 March 2002
LABELLING - Food quality: Commission proposes better protection for geographical names
"Prosciutto di Parma, "Roquefort" cheese or "Bayrisches Bier" are unique quality products because of the place they come from and the traditional way they are produced. The European Commission has now presented a proposal to improve protection for geographical indications and designations of origin for these agricultural products and foodstuffs. By giving all WTO members the right to object to registration of these geographical names, the proposal would improve the recognition on international markets. The Commission further proposes to add wine vinegar to and withdraw mineral water from the list of products eligible for protection. Welcoming the proposal, Franz Fischler, Commissioner for Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development said "The EU produces a range of high-quality and speciality foodstuffs. Better protecting their geographical indication from pirating or unfair competition will not only help to better inform consumers world-wide. It will also encourage producers, who can be safe in the knowledge that their produce receives its legitimate world-wide recognition."
In line with the Commission's objective to improve recognition of intellectual property rights, the proposal aims at full implementation of the TRIPS agreement(1) and improve protection for geographical indications. To comply with the Commission's obligations as set out in the TRIPS Agreement, the following amendments to Regulation (EEC) No 2081/92 are proposed:
- The right of objection to registrations is extended to WTO member country nationals with a right and a legitimate interest within EU territory. This gives WTO member country nationals the same right as EU Member State nationals to object to registrations of products within 6 months of their publication in the Official Journal of the European Communities;
- Beyond mere TRIPS consistency, the Commission proposes important amendments designed to promote the EU system of denominations of origin as a model to the rest of the world. The driving idea behind is the wish to improve protection of European quality products also outside the EU. As the EU cannot force non-EU countries to do so, they would be invited to do so on a reciprocal basis. If a non-EU country introduced an equivalent system including the right of objection for the EU and the commitment to protect EU names on their territory, the EU would offer a specific procedure to register their products for the EU market.
- In case of conflicts between registrations of trademarks and geographical indications, the solution set out in the Regulation would apply not only to registered trademarks but also to those acquired through use;
- The reference dates to be used in cases of conflict would also be adjusted. To treat trademarks and geographical indications in the same way, the reference date would become the date of submission of the application for registration, instead of the date of notice conferring the right to object.
In addition, some further adaptations are proposed:
- The scope of the Regulation would be altered to include wine vinegar and remove mineral and spring waters. Wine vinegar previously fell into a gap in the Union's protection provisions, while numerous applications to register mineral and spring waters presented problems identical names for different waters and invented or unsuitable names. As mineral and spring waters are already adequately regulated under other existing legislation(2) it is proposed to withdraw them from the Regulation;
- Homonyms: rules are added for deciding on registration in cases of names that are spelled or pronounced in the same way. It is also proposed to create a legal framework to phase out identical names which do not fall under the Regulation in a period of 15 years.
- Possibility of requesting cancellation of a registered name if good reason is shown;
- Abolition of the simplified registration procedure (Article 17) since it does not allow for objections, which are an essential requirement for protecting acquired rights and preventing injury on registration.
This proposal has to be adopted with qualified majority in the Agriculture Council, following the opinion of the European Parliament.
"Queso Manchego", "Prosciutto di Parma", "Roquefort" …., labelling products as unique because of the place they come from and the way they are made gives them special added value. However, when a product acquires a reputation beyond national borders it can find itself in competition with products which pass themselves off as the genuine article and use the same name. This unfair competition not only discourages producers, but also misleads consumers. That is why the European Union has created registration systems to promote and protect food products, and where Regulation (EEC) No 2081/92 applies.
The purpose of the Regulation is to protect geographical names used for products meeting certain very precisely defined requirements. It provides a harmonised Community-level system protecting rights in the domain of intellectual property law and falls within the ambit of the TRIPS Agreement (1994), notably the section on protection of geographical indications.
At present, the names of about 570 cheese, meat, fruit, vegetable and other products are registered as PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) and TSG (Traditional Speciality Guaranteed).
- Belgium: Jambon d' Ardenne Ireland: Timoleague Brown Pudding
- Austria: Vorarlberger Bergkäse
- Denmark: Danablu
- Spain: Queso Manchego
- Netherlands: Noordhollandse Gouda
- Sweden: Svecia
- Luxembourg: Miel Luxembourgeois de marque nationale
- United Kingdom: Cornish clotted cream
- Greece: Tsakoniki Melintzana Leonidiou
- Portugal: Citrinos do Algarve
- Italy: Prosciutto di Parma
- France: Roquefort
- Finland: Lapin Puikula
- Germany: Bayerisches Bier
The full list of protected names can be found on the Internet at:
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