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European Commission considers extending GI protection to non-farm products.

The European Commission last week began public deliberations on possibly extending the scope of the European Union's quality protection program of "Geographical Indications" (GIs) to non-agricultural products such as ceramics, marble, cutlery, shoes, tapestries and musical instruments. Doing so would provide EU-wide legal protection for those products and obtain legal protection via bilateral free trade agreements.

Currently, agricultural products and foodstuffs (wines, spirits) are able to be granted protection exclusively at the EU level. Non-agricultural GIs are protected only at the national or regional levels, through various national legal frameworks.

The EU is bound by rules on protecting GIs under the World Trade Organization's Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement, which covers both agricultural and non-agricultural products.

"The European Union is rich in products based on traditional knowledge and production methods, which are often rooted in the cultural and social heritage of a particular geographical location, from Bohemian crystal and Scottish tartans to Carrara marble to Tapisserie d'Aubusson [tapestries produced in a particular location in France in the 17th and 18th centuries]," said Commission vice-president for internal market and services Michel Barnier.

As of the end of April 2014, 336 names of spirits, 1,577 names of wines and 1,184 names of foodstuff and agricultural products were registered at EU level, for a total of 3,097 EU GIs.

The estimated sales value for EU GIs in 2010 amounted to $73.7 billion, including $15.6 billion of export sales, or 15 percent of the EU's food and drink industry exports.

The issue of GI protection for EU agricultural products is a source of contention with the United States in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations. Some EU GIs for agricultural products are registered trademarks in the United States, but the U.S. government opposes giving trademark protection to what it says are generic "common" names that have evolved in the U.S. food industry over the past 100 years. Included in this group are a number of cheeses and meat products such as cheddar, feta, gouda, munster, brie, prosciutto and bologna.

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Publication:The Food & Fiber Letter
Date:Jul 21, 2014
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