Both Sides Claim Victory In Geographic Indications Dispute 15/03/2005 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Both sides claimed victory Tuesday in a World Trade Organisation dispute brought by Australia and the United States against the European Union’s protection of foods with names deriving from specific geographical regions. The WTO panel ruling Tuesday found that the EU system of protection for geographical indications for agricultural products may continue to exist, but said the system discriminates against non-EU products. The two sides disagreed whether the ruling found the EU system to be in violation of WTO rules. The case brought by the United States and Australia challenged a 1992 EU system under which more than 600 European products, such as Roquefort cheese, are registered for protection to ensure “quality.” The challenge involves the registering in Europe of foreign agricultural products with place-names such as Florida oranges. It excludes wines and spirits, which fall under another regime. The United States charged that the EU regulation discriminated against U.S. geographic indications, a violation of the “national treatment” rule that all WTO members should treat each other’s products the same as their own, and that it failed to protect U.S. trademarks. U.S. officials were pleased with the outcome. “It’s a clear win for American farmers and food processors,” Peter Allgeier, acting U.S. Trade Representative, said in a statement. “For years, Europe effectively had a ‘Do Not Apply’ sign directed at foreign producers. We believed that, under WTO rules, U.S. farmers, ranchers, and other food producers should have the same access to protection for geographical indications as European food producers, and that the European system discriminated against us.” “Today, the WTO issued a crystal clear ruling that agreed with our view that Europe failed to provide Americans fair access,” Allgeier said. The European Union said the ruling confirms the rights of the holders of the nearly 700 geographical indications. “By confirming that geographical indications are both legal and compatible with existing trademark systems, this WTO decision will help the EU to ensure wider recognition of geographical indications and protection of regional and local product identities, which is one of our goals in the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations,” EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said in a statement. A U.S. trade official said in a telephone press briefing Tuesday that the U.S. concern was that geographic indication holders could use translations of their holdings in a “confusing way” and could interfere with trademark holders’ right to use them. The U.S. official also said the ruling could provide guidance to negotiators in the Doha Development Agenda. The U.S. position is that the existing WTO rules are sufficient, he noted. The United States will look for the European Union to issue a legal instrument that eliminates the discrimination in the system, the official added. U.S. geographic indications holders have not had a place to register their status, he said. The EU interpretation of the ruling on the relationship between geographic indications and trademarks was that the panel confirmed that the provision of the EU system allowing for the ‘coexistence’ of such indications with prior trademarks under certain circumstances is fully justified under the TRIPS Agreement. The European Union added that it has repeatedly sought to dispel charges that its system discriminates against geographic indications relating to geographical areas in third countries in violation of the WTO national treatment rules. “In fact, the EU system is open also to applications for registration of [geographic indications] from third countries,” it said. “The panel report asks the EU to clarify the rules in this respect, to allow producer groups from third countries to apply directly rather than having to go through their governments.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related "Both Sides Claim Victory In Geographic Indications Dispute" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.