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In an exciting development for brand owners, the EU has this week approved a new regulation that will allow the producers of distinctive craft and industrial products to protect their goods with a Geographical Indication.
What is a Geographical Indication?
Geographical indication protection rights (“GIs”) have been available for certain types of product in various countries for over a century and were internationally recognised in a more formal manner with the implementation of the TRIPS Agreement in 1995. TRIPS defines GIs as “indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a Member of the World Trade Organization, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographical origin”.
As a result, GIs have been widely recognised for agricultural products, or products that derive benefit from the soil or climate of their production location. Well known examples include Champagne, Cognac, Camembert and the recently accepted GI for Single Malt Welsh Whisky by the UK.
GI’s help to safeguard both producers and consumers against counterfeiting as only genuine products can bear this distinctive trade mark.
Recognising the value of GI protection, the EU council is extending similar rights to non-agricultural products with a geographical reputational link, like cutlery or ceramics.
Approved on 9th October 2023, the new regulation will synchronise the rules for producers of agricultural and non-agricultural products, providing clarity for brand owners. This is a welcome development as crafts and industrial goods are currently protected by numerous laws in different EU countries, resulting in varying levels of legal protection across Europe..
How will Non-Agricultural GIs work?
Protection for non-agricultural GIs will be based on the product’s quality or reputation, as opposed to connection to the soil or climate of the location.
The name of a product should be eligible for protection as a non-agricultural GI if the product complies with the following three cumulative requirements:
The product must be rooted in or originate from a specific place, region, or country;
The quality, reputation or other characteristic of the product should be essentially attributable to its geographical origin;
At least one of the production steps must take place in the designated geographical area.
A Simplified Process
The new rules will enable a simple and cost-efficient registration process of non-agricultural GIs. This will be achieved through a two-level application process: examination at national level and by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) at EU level, in the expected ‘GI Division’. Where a member state has been granted a derogation from this two-stage application process, the member state can apply directly to the EUIPO through the direct registration procedure.
It is possible to challenge the decision of a national body before the respective national court, or appeal to the EUIPO’s Board of Appeal and pursue further action in the General Court and Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) if necessary.
The new regulation on non-agricultural GI’s purports many benefits for consumers, property owners, the country or region associated with the craft or industrial good and wider stakeholders.
GIs provide detailed information on where and how goods that carry a GI label are produced. As a result, the regulation enabling GI protection for non-agricultural products will equip Consumers with the ability to verify the authenticity of the products and enable them to make informed decisions, negating the risk of purchasing counterfeit products.
Protection afforded by a non-agricultural GI will act as an Intellectual Property Right, enabling the producer to prevent use by third parties whose products do not originate from the same geographical area or do not conform to the same standards of production. Having GI protection enhances the market value of a product by setting it apart from others and this benefit can now be applied more easily to non-agricultural products on a consistent EU level.
The regulation will protect against the ‘misuse, imitation or evocation of the name protected as a geographical indication’ and give rise to legal certainty for all stakeholders. Part of the justification for this system is that it will help to promote, attract, and retain skills and jobs in Europe’s regions, countering depopulation trends. The ability to protect your product which is attributable to the location of creation can provide an incentive to invest in authentic products and create niche markets, and it is possible for this to, in turn, boost tourism.
The establishment of this regulation offers an abundance of opportunities for producers of products such as: Limoges porcelain; Murano glass; and Donegal tweed to determine whether they are eligible for protection under this regulation. The EU Commission has identified a significant number of craft and industrial products that may be eligible for GI protection under this regime.
The regulation will be signed by the Presidents of both the Parliament and the Council and then published in the Official Journal. It will come into force 20 days after its publication, with the new system becoming operational two years later.
If you’re seeking clarity on this new regulation or require guidance in navigating the European craft and industrial product protection, please contact us.
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