Apr 28, 2016

EU Report on Geographical Indicators Infringement Released

The EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) recently conducted a study to assess the level of infringement of Geographical Indications (GI) in the EU in respect of wines, spirits, agricultural products and foodstuffs.   The report was published on 25 April 2016 (although dated April 2016) and is available by clicking this link.

What is a GI?

Consumers pay a lot of attention to the origin of products and their specific characteristics.  A GI is a sign used on products that come from a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation as a result of their origin.  Examples of GI's include Cognac, Roquefort cheese, Sherry, Parma hams and Tuscany olives.

PDO's and PGI's

GI's include Protected Designations of Origin (PDO's) and Protected Geographic Indications (PGI's).

A PDO can be awarded to a product which originates in the geographical area and the quality is exclusively due to the geographical area, for example, Stilton cheese.   A PGI is a product where at least one of the production steps have taken place in the geographical area. PDO's and PGI's are defined in EU legislation as quality schemes and a product which has been awarded a PDO or PGI is awarded a symbol to indicate this status.

Use of GI's

Only producers of a product which comply with the specific conditions of production in the defined geographical area are entitled to use the GI.  The owner of a GI is entitled to prevent a third party whose product does not conform to the applicable standards from using the mark.

Purpose of EUIPO Study

The purpose of the EUIPO's study was to assess the size and value of the GI product market in the EU and the number of products that infringe GI's protected in the EU.  The study assessed the GI product consumption in each member state and considered the size and extent of the infringement of GI's in each member state.   Finally, the study examined the impact of the infringement on consumers by calculating the premiums paid for GI products over that the equivalent non-GI Products.

Findings

The study found that the EU GI infringement market amounted to a total of 4.3 billion euros in 2014 and that EU consumers lose 2.3 billion euros a year buying goods they assume are genuine GI products which in fact are not.  The infringement rates were calculated by class of product and wines and spirits were shown to account for nearly 80% of the consumer loss.

Customs record a very low number of GI infringing products and therefore the researchers are assuming that most infringements take place within the EU.  However a further study would be needed to identify the origin of the infringing products.

The focus of this study was infringements of GI's in the EU marketplace. In the future, the study could to be extended to infringements at a more global level.

Posted by: in: Consumer Law, EU/International, Legal News, News

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