Thursday 17 July 2014

Geographical indications for non-agricultural products, next scheme of protection in the European Union?

Two days ago, the European Commission launched a green paper public consultation on a possible extension of geographical indication (GI) protection in the European Union to non-agricultural products.

These products, up to now overlooked, are of great importance to a number of different economically relevant sectors at both the national and Community levels (e.g., shoe-making, watch-making, and crafts in particular, the prototypical candidates for this possible new scheme of protection and the main products protected by geographical indications in countries like India and certain Latin American nations).

This new GI scheme would likely be inspired by the European Union's current GI scheme for agricultural products and foodstuffs, although it might have certain nuances of its own, or at least some differences in practical terms.

The possible new EU GI scheme is something that has been talked about frequently in recent years. I have held some conversations on the subject with the EU delegation at the WIPO WG. They seemed not to be very sure of whether it would finally happen, and it can be expected to take some time, but since there are many interest groups pushing for it and it holds out political and economic interest for the EU to negotiate bilateral agreements, I assume that it will come about sooner or later.

The Green Paper consists of two parts. One part asks about the current means of protection provided at the national and EU levels and the potential benefits which could be achieved by improved GI protection in the EU, and the second refers to more technical questions to seek the views of interested parties on possible options for EU-level GI protection for non-agri foodstuffs.

Publication on the EU Commission's website has opened a deadline ending for submitting contributions on 28 October 2014.

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