Geographical indications echo the recognition of the relationship between the geographical origin and the product quality.
Protection of geographical identity of the products is directed against attracting customers through a misleading geographic origin and quality that are due to the geographical origin.
Geographical indications are :
- designation of origin
- geographical indication
Designation of origin is the geographical name of a country, region or locality which serves to designate goods originating from that location. The qualities and characteristics of these goods are due exclusively or essentially to the geographical environment, including natural and human factors.
The most essential characteristic of the designation of origin is the obligatory link between specific characteristics of the product and the geographical environment, including natural and human factors.
Geographical indication is a name of a region or specific place which is used to describe an agricultural product or foodstuff that comes from that region or specific place.
This agricultural product or foodstuff possesses a specific quality, reputation or other characteristics that are associated with this particular geographical origin.
The main difference between the designations of origin and geographical indications is that the raw materials used to manufacture the GI product can come from another region when at least one stage of production or processing takes place in the specified geographic region.l
Community geographical indications
Council Regulation (EC) No 510/2006 of 20 March 2006 on the protection of geographical indications and designations of origin for agricultural products and foodstuffs
This Regulation sets out provisions on agricultural products and foodstuffs (excluding all wine-sector products, except wine vinegar) from a defined geographical area. If there is a link between the characteristics of certain products and their geographical origin, they may qualify for either a protected geographical indication (PGI)* or a protected designation of origin (PDO)*. The use of corresponding EU symbols on the labels of such products provides consumers with clear and concise information on their origin. The introduction of these two terms also benefits the rural economy, since it boosts farmers’ income and maintains the population in less favoured or remote areas.
Designation of origin and geographical indication
The two types of geographical description are different. A PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) covers the term used to describe foodstuffs which are produced, processed and prepared in a given geographical area using recognised know-how (such as Mozzarella di Bufala Campana). A PGI indicates a link with the area in at least one of the stages of production, processing or preparation (such as Turrón de Alicante). The link with the area is therefore stronger for PDOs.
Names that have become generic, i.e. those that, although linked to the place or region where the product was initially produced or sold, denote the common name of a product in the EU (such as Dijon mustard) may not be registered.
Names that conflict with the name of a plant variety or an animal breed and as a result are likely to mislead the consumer as to the true origin of the product may not be registered.
A name wholly or partially homonymous with that of a name already registered under this Regulation must only be registered with due regard for local and traditional usage and the actual risk of confusion.
A PDO or PGI may not be registered where the reputation and the length of time it has been used are liable to mislead the consumer as to the true identity of the product.
In order to obtain a PDO or PGI, agricultural products or foodstuffs must comply with the product specification, which must include the following aspects:
– the name of the PDO or PGI;
– the description of the product, with an indication of its main physical, chemical, microbiological and organoleptic properties;
definition of the geographical area;
– information proving that the product originates from that area;
-information justifying the link between the product and the geographical area;
– description of the production method and, if appropriate, the authentic and unvarying local methods as well as information concerning packaging that takes place in the defined geographical area in order to safeguard quality, ensure the origin or ensure control;
– the name and address of authorities or bodies that verify compliance with the provisions contained in the product specification;
– any specific labelling rule for the product in question;
-any requirements laid down by Community or national provisions.
Application for registration
Applications for registration may only be made by a group of producers or processors or, in exceptional cases, natural or legal persons. If the application concerns a cross-border area, it may be made jointly by several groups.
The application for registration must include:
the name and address of the applicant group;
the product specification;
a single document setting out the main aspects of the product specification and a description of the link between the product and its geographical area of origin.
Applications are made to the Member State on whose territory the geographical area is situated. The Member State examines it and initiates a national objection procedure, ensuring that the application is sufficiently publicised and allowing a reasonable period within which any natural or legal person having a legitimate interest and established or resident on its territory may lodge an objection. Where the Member State deems the application to be acceptable, it forwards the single document to the Commission together with a declaration stating that all the necessary conditions have been met.
Where an application for registration concerns a geographical area in a third country, it has to be sent to the Commission either directly or through the authorities of that country.
Examination by the Commission
The Commission checks that the application is justified and that it meets all the necessary conditions. This check must be carried out within twelve months. Each month, the Commission publishes the list of the names for which registration applications have been submitted. If the conditions are met, it publishes in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJ) the single document and the publication reference of the product specification. If the conditions are not met, the Commission will reject the application for registration.
Within six months from the date of publication in the OJ, any Member State, third country, natural or legal person having a legitimate interest may object to the registration proposed by lodging a duly substantiated statement. Proof must be given that either the product specification fails to meet the required conditions, or that the name conflicts with a trade mark or agricultural product or that it has become a generic name.
Where the Commission receives no admissible objection, it will register the name.
Where the Commission judges that an objection is admissible, it invites the interested parties to engage in the appropriate consultations. If they reach an agreement within six months, they notify the Commission of all the factors that enabled that agreement to be reached, including the opinions of the applicant and the objector. If no agreement is reached, the Commission takes a decision, bearing in mind traditional fair practice and the actual likelihood of confusion.
Names, indications and symbols
A registered name may be used by any operator marketing products conforming to the corresponding specification. The terms “protected designation of origin” and “protected geographical indication” or the associated EU symbols must be included on the labelling of products originating in the EU and may be included on those originating in third countries and sold under these designations.
Amending the product specification
A group may request the product specification to be amended to take into account technical or scientific developments or to revise the definition of the geographical area. Applications for amendments are made in accordance with procedures similar to those for registering a designation.
Controls on the requirements set out in this Regulation are carried out under Regulation (EC) No 882/2004. Verification of compliance of a product with its product specification may be ensured by one or more public authorities set up for this purpose or by one or more product certification bodies. For EU designations, the costs of such verification are to be borne by the operators subject to those controls.
If the Commission deems that compliance with the conditions laid down in the product specification for a protected designation is no longer ensured or if any natural or legal person with a legitimate interest requests cancellation of the registration, the Commission may initiate the procedure to cancel a registration.
Registered names are protected against:
any misuse, imitation or evocation, even if the true origin of the product is indicated or if the protected name is translated or accompanied by an expression such as “style”, “type”, “method”, “as produced in”, “imitation” or similar;
any other false or misleading indication as to the provenance, origin, nature or essential qualities of the product, on the inner or outer packaging, advertising material or documents relating to the product concerned, and the packing of the product in a container liable to convey a false impression as to its origin;
any other practice liable to mislead the consumer as to the true origin of the product;
commercial use of a registered name in respect of products not covered by the registration if they are comparable to the products registered under that name or if this use exploits the reputation of the protected name.
Relations between trade marks, designations of origin and geographical indications
Where a PDO or a PGI is registered, applications to register trade marks corresponding to one of the above situations and relating to the same class of product are refused if they are submitted after the date of submission of the registration application to the Commission.
In certain cases specified in the Regulation, a trade mark may co-exist with a geographical indication or a designation of origin.
The Commission is assisted by the Standing Committee on Protected Geographical Indications and Protected Designations of Origin.
Member States may charge a fee to cover their costs, including those incurred in scrutinising applications for registration, statements of objection, applications for amendments and requests for cancellations under this Regulation.
Source : www.europa.eu