EU celebrates boosted protection for foods after PGI negotiations

By Niamh Michail contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Intellectual property, Trademark

PGIs are granted to products that have "a precise geographic origin and possess certain qualities, notoriety or characteristics associated with its region of origin," says WIPO.
PGIs are granted to products that have "a precise geographic origin and possess certain qualities, notoriety or characteristics associated with its region of origin," says WIPO.
Well-known international food names, such as Parmigiano, Roquefort and Tequila, will have more protection as negotiators adopt changes to Protected Geographical Indications (PGIs) following six years of negotiations.

Adopted by representatives of 28 countries, the changes affect fee provisions, the scope of protection and offer safeguards for prior trademark rights.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which convened the conference in Geneva, said the application system would be more flexible and attractive to food and drink producers.

'A historic advancement'

President of OriGIn – the global alliance of Geographical Indication groups – Ramón González Figueroa, welcomed the changes.

“The Geneva Act formally introduces GIs under its scope of application and provides a solid level of protection for both GIs and Appellations of Origin," ​he said.

“(…) By providing adequate legal means to fight against GIs misappropriations, the Geneva Act will improve legal certainty and predictability for producers and consumers of origin goods around the world.​“

EU agriculture Commissioner Hogan said it provided for a modern, multilateral treaty on a key form of intellectual property, while the French minister for agriculture, Stéphane Le Foll, called the changes a historic advancement.

“The revision of the Lisbon Agreement is a truly international recognition of the relevance of GIs. [GIs] contribute to a territory’s economic dynamism, particularly in rural areas and including in developing countries, and promote their integration in international trade through increased protection against fraud,” ​he said in a statement.

France has more than 600 PGIs, mostly for wine and cheese.

Unequal talks?

But several countries, including the US, Chile, Russia and Colombia, had opposed the basic proposal and offered proposed amendments​.

The US - which does not recognise protected names and allows food produced in the US to bear names such as Frankfurter sausages or Parmesan cheese - had expressed concerns that the talks were being dominated by European countries and that other countries – such as the United States, Chile, Argentina and Australia – were not permitted to fully participate.

During the negotiations, members of the US Congress sent a letter​ to WIPO director general, Francis Gurry, urging him to give all countries likely to be affected an equal say in the talks.

They wrote: “In particular we are concerned that the expanded agreement will not provide adequate protection for users of common or generic names or for prior trademark holders around the world. Without these safeguards, companies in the United States and elsewhere could see their sales opportunities and intellectual property rights eroded in various markets around the world.”

PGIs have emerged as a sticking point​ in the US-EU TTIP trade talks, but an EU spokesperson told FoodNavigator that there was no connection between the Lisbon Diplomatic Conference and the TTIP negotiations.

Worldwide there are over 4000 foods and drinks that benefit from the PGI status, including Darjeeling tea, Basmati rice and Cornish pasties, as well as artisan objects such as pottery, glass and cloth.

Italy leads the way with 792 PGIs.

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