EU Elevates Geographical Indications As Priority For Hong Kong 28/10/2005 by Tove Iren S. Gerhardsen for 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)Geographical indications (GIs) have become a political issue and a key priority for the European Union in the run-up to the December World Trade Organization ministerial in Hong Kong as GIs today officially became part of the EU’s agriculture package. As the EU proposed further cuts in its agriculture sector as part of the current WTO negotiations, it requested improvements in GI protection in return, stating in its 28 October contribution that this was “an integral part of market access in agriculture.” “It means it [GIs] won’t go away,” an EU official said Friday. “It is a matter that is embedded at the heart of the negotiation.” GI protection means that products deriving their names from certain geographical locations, such as Parma ham or Swiss watches, could not be produced under the same name by anyone from another location. A French delegate said on Friday that GIs “add marketing value to products” and is therefore valuable to European farmers who cannot compete with large-scale production elsewhere. “European agriculture is to an ever-increasing extent focusing on high-value-added products for which suitable protection of the equivalent of a trademark, i.e, geographical indications, is obviously essential,” the EU document says. European farmers and others are eager to fight what they call “free-riders” of Europe’s image and reputation in terms of quality, the French delegate said, adding that GIs would be a “bargaining chip” for the EU in Hong Kong. The EU has outlined three GI requests as part of the WTO talks, an EU official said in an interview, noting that the sequence of the points in the new EU proposal emphasised the political importance. First, the EU wants the GI protection that wines and spirits currently enjoy under Article 23 of the WTO Agreement on the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to be extended to all products deriving their names from geographical locations, the EU official said. But the EU implies in its offer that existing trademarks would not be affected, and the scheme would only be “forward-looking,” the EU official said. There has been debate over the status the GI extension has in the current round of trade-liberalising talks launched in Doha, Qatar in 2001. But the EU official said the extension is expected to be discussed in Hong Kong. Secondly, the EU wants a “multilateral system of notification and registration of GIs,” not only for wines and spirits but all products, the EU offer says. Setting up a register for wines and spirits has a mandate under the Doha Declaration and always was bound to be discussed in Hong Kong, according to the French delegate. Third, the EU wants that 41 products whose names have so far not been protected to become GI-protected under a so-called “clawback” provision, the EU official said. The protection would thus be retrospective so that the production of items using these names elsewhere would have to be halted, the delegate said. But he said that this point probably did not have “a lot of future.” The EU document notes that “we are prepared to accept the application of a two-thirds ratio to the respective contributions by developing and developed countries,” and that special and differential treatment should be reflected in the negotiations. “New World” Versus “Old” Countries such as the United States, Canada, Brazil, Argentina and Chile are against the GI register as well as extension, while European countries, Turkey and a number of African and Asian countries support it, a French delegate said. An Indian delegate said that India is pro-GI protection but is worried about the legal effect and bureaucracy it would create domestically. But the French and EU delegates downplayed concerns that a GI register would involve significant costs and bureaucracy. This issue was discussed extensively in the 27 October special session of TRIPS Council, according to participants. Before the EU presented its new offer, an Indian delegate said that the EU would only be able to add the point of GI extension to the Hong Kong agenda if it got the support of developing countries. In this context, the Indian delegate said, the EU was holding IP seminars, but the EU official said that it only held seminars upon request from countries. The GI register for wines and spirits was discussed as part of the TRIPS Council meeting on 26 October, focusing on three existing proposals (IPW, 23 September 2005), participants said. The GI register was discussed along with other issues, such as the disclosure of origin in patent applications, related to the Convention on Biological Diversity (IPW, 28 October 2005). All of these issues were, however, suspended together with rest of the TRIPS Council meeting, subject to informal consultations. The EU official noted that it had been the EU’s interest to keep the GI issues alive at the TRIPS council and that “we knew that nothing was going to move.” The offer was in its draft stage before the council meeting, but EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson had already hinted to a link of agriculture and GIs in a speech at a recent meeting in Zurich, the official said. A Brazilian delegate suggested before the EU offer was presented that the EU wanted to link the issue of GIs to agriculture in order to sell it internally to its farmers because of the consequences they would suffer in agriculture. The agenda for the Hong Kong ministerial is expected to be presented on 3 December, following the General Council meeting, sources said. 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 "EU Elevates Geographical Indications As Priority For Hong Kong" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.