US Generic-Named Food Industries Cry For US Government Help Against ‘Relentlessly Aggressive’ EU 09/03/2018 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)Something that was unimaginable just a few years ago: What if Americans could not buy ordinary bologna, feta or parmesan cheese? Or worse, make them and export them under those names? The international industry group representing a range of products like those today called on the US government to help US producers defend their products and their jobs against what they called “purposeful,” “relentless” and “aggressive” efforts by Europe to over-extend protection of geographical indications (products named for places and with particular characteristics) to the detriment of the US common-named goods. “The impact on American companies and other competitors around the world is not accidental collateral damage caused by EU initiatives but are the purposeful deliberate results the EU intends as they pursue their global GI agenda,” the Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) said. “The European Union has been relentless in aggressively promoting the global adoption of GI policies with an overly broad scope of protection and specific GIs expressly intended to shield European companies from competition by American companies, as well as those in other nations.” CCFN, which is based in the United States but has an international membership, made the appeal in its submission [pdf] to the Office of the US Trade Representative’s annual Special 301 process, which unilaterally assesses the adequacy of trading partners’ protection of US intellectual property rights. “Unfortunately, our members repeatedly witness the EU trying to abuse this respect for truly unique products by expanding their GI monopolies to cover clearly generic names,” the group said. “An example of this indefensible voracious behavior is the EU’s approach to dealing with the GI Parmigiano Reggiano. The EU is not content with having the unique right to just this legitimate term but instead is pushing in many markets to go beyond any reasonable scope of rights in order to bar use by all non-Italians of the generic term “parmesan”. Of course, this is outrageous as parmesan is a type of cheese that has always been recognized around the world as generic.” US farmers and manufacturers will lose jobs if the EU continues negotiating these provisions with other countries, it said, and the US will lose the benefits of trade deals that addressed these issues. “Simply put, what is the value of the U.S. gaining no or low tariffs into a country’s market in an FTA if U.S. producers are then banned from selling that product into that country due to their later GI concessions to the EU?” And CCFN charged that there is a “total disregard for a clear and transparent process,” by the EU, getting countries in bilateral free-trade negotiations to agree to long lists of products that must be recognised, with no preliminary review by local authorities and no consultations. The submission includes details of the new GI requirements of recent EU bilateral agreements with many countries. It also describes various other ways in which the EU is advancing the agenda, such as through the “Traditional Specialty Guarantee Program” that it says could lead to overly restrictive measures, or through alleged violations of the “national treatment” principle in international trade law that says foreign firms should be treated the same as domestic ones. Meanwhile, the CCFN explained that it is not opposed to GIs: “CCFN and its members have never been opposed to the concept of geographical indications. Appropriately, the U.S. protects GIs – both foreign and domestic – through its certification mark system. Legitimate GIs can be a useful intellectual property tool for some producers when it is properly targeted to protect truly unique regional products, combining a specific regional name with the common term for the type of product. For example, CCFN fully agrees that a GI such as Mortadella Bologna should be able to be protected; but the generic term bologna, which has been made generically for decades around the world by various producers, must remain free for use by any producer.” “Our organization strongly supports U.S. government efforts to ensure that GI protections are properly notified and applied and do not prevent the use of generic or common terms, or violate prior rights – such as market access commitments under trade agreements, obligations regarding technical barriers to trade or trademark rights.” Global rules on GIs exist at the World Trade Organization and elsewhere. Perhaps the US may get interested in multilateral trade again after all. Image Credits: CCFN 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 William New may be reached at email@example.com."US Generic-Named Food Industries Cry For US Government Help Against ‘Relentlessly Aggressive’ EU" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.