Protection for EU Geographical Indications
The Concept of Geographical Indications
Geographical indications, often referred to as GIs, provide intellectual property rights protection to specific products closely associated with their area of production. A GI designation is granted to a product when there is a distinct connection between its qualities and the region in which it is manufactured. The recognition of GIs serves a dual purpose: it instills trust and differentiation among consumers regarding high-quality products while aiding producers in effectively marketing their wares.
The European Union already has specific GI protection for wines, spirit drinks, and various agricultural products and foodstuffs. Prominent examples include Champagne and Prosciutto di Parma, both of which are well-known for their agricultural GIs, with a regulatory framework in place since 1992. However, as of now, there is no EU-wide GI protection for craft and industrial goods. Instead, several EU countries rely on regional or national regulations, specific product laws, or regional/national laws to protect craft and industrial GI products. This disparity results in varying levels of legal protection across Europe. To secure GI protection in the EU, craft and industrial producers must apply for protection in each country individually. Alternatively, they can use other tools such as trademark protection, litigation, or administrative actions against unfair commercial practices or consumer deception.
Proposal for an EU-Wide GI System for Craft and Industrial Products
Recognizing the need to create a unified GI system for craft and industrial products, the European Commission introduced a proposal for a regulation on GIs for these items. This proposal, adopted on April 13, 2022, aims to provide protection for products such as Murano glass, Donegal tweed, Porcelaine de Limoges, Solingen cutlery, and Boleslawiec pottery. The proposal's goal is to facilitate recognition of product quality by consumers, allowing for more informed purchasing decisions. It also seeks to promote, attract, and retain skills and jobs within Europe's regions, contributing to their economic development. Furthermore, the proposal strives to place traditional craft and industrial products on an equal footing with existing GIs in the agricultural sector.
- In line with its robust impact assessment, the European Commission proposes several measures to establish a system for craft and industrial products, including:
- Introducing EU-wide protection for geographical indications of craft and industrial products to safeguard intellectual property rights across the EU and combat counterfeit products, including those sold online.
- Implementing a streamlined and cost-effective registration process for GIs related to craft and industrial products through a two-level application procedure.
- Ensuring full compatibility with international GI protection by enabling producers of registered craft and industrial GIs to protect their products in all signatory countries of the Geneva Act on Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications under the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). This will also allow GIs from non-EU countries to access GI protection within the EU.
- Supporting the development of Europe's rural and less-developed regions by providing incentives for producers, particularly micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), to invest in new authentic products and create niche markets. These regions, especially rural and less developed areas, will benefit from the reputation of the new GIs, potentially attracting tourists.
The European Commission's proposal is the result of an extensive consultation process that began with an inception impact assessment in November 2020, followed by a public consultation from April to July 2021, including targeted consultations with EU countries and relevant stakeholder organizations.
Within the EU's framework of intellectual property rights, products registered as GIs are legally protected against imitation and misuse both within the EU and in non-EU countries with which specific protection agreements have been signed.
For craft and industrial products, competent national authorities in each EU country will collaborate with producers to implement measures protecting registered names within their territories. They are also responsible for preventing and halting the unlawful production or marketing of products using these names.
Non-European product names can receive protection in the EU if their country of origin has an international agreement that includes mutual protection of such names, or if they submit an application that adheres to the requirements of the regulation on geographical indications for craft and industrial products. Moreover, GI applicants from non-EU countries can also apply for GI protection under the regulation.
The proposal grants authority to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) to register geographical indications for craft and industrial products at both the EU and international levels.