Until now, Geographical Indications (GIs) have been protected in the UK via protection afforded under EU law, but this scheme ceased to cover the UK at the end of the Brexit transition period. It has now been confirmed that GIs will be protected in the UK via a new UK scheme.
A GI is a form of IP right which is used to protect products which have a specific geographical origin and which possess special qualities or reputation as a result of that origin. GIs are most commonly used in relation to food and drink goods but the scheme also extends to agricultural products. Some of the most well-known UK based GIs include Scotch Whisky and Stilton Cheese.
A GI is different to a trade mark. A GI is not owned or used by a specific business or individual. Rather, any producer can make and sell a product under a protected GI as long as they follow the product’s specification and are verified to do so.
The new UK scheme came into effect on 1 January 2021. Food, drink or agricultural products with a geographical connection or which are made using traditional methods can be registered and protected as a GI. The new UK GI scheme can be used to protect registered products sold in Great Britain. For goods sold in Northern Ireland, the EU GI scheme will apply.
All product names protected as a GI under the existing EU scheme as of 31 December 2020 have automatically been granted protection in the UK under the new scheme.
New UK GI Logos have been released to cover the three different kinds of GI products, namely: Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), protected Geographical Indication (PGI) and Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG).
Producers should ensure they follow the guidance which has been issued by DEFRA regarding adding the new logos to goods or their packaging.
Use of the logos on protected food, beer, cider, perry and agricultural products of UK origin is compulsory for goods sold in Great Britain. If the name was protected prior to 1 January 2021, producers have until 1 January 2024 to commence use of the logos. For names granted protection after 1 January 2021, use of the logos must commence as soon as the goods are put on the market in Great Britain.
For goods sold outside of Great Britain, use of the logos is optional. Use of the logos on wine and spirits and on non-UK origin goods is optional, even if they are sold in Great Britain.
As an extension of the scheme, the UK has entered into an agreement with the USA to protect certain wines and spirit drinks. These names are not protected as GIs, rather they are protected under a separate scheme. Over 700 wines and 2 spirits, namely Bourbon Whiskey and Tennessee Whiskey are recognised as protected in the UK.
If you require advice or assistance relating to protection of GIs in the UK, you can contact a member of our trade mark team.