Opinion on geographical indications and designations published
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The opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) on geographical indications (GIs) and designations has been published on the website of the Official Journal of the European Union (2008/C 204/14). The opinion, which dates from March 18 of this year, was published on August 11 2008. It consists of nine pages of policy relating to GIs.
Recommendation 1(1)(8) states that:
"international trade negotiations on geographical indications and designations [should] be made part of a wider policy for international cooperation. In this connection, the multilateral negotiating package needs to be relaunched with greater impetus and conviction (extension of Article 23 of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights to all GI products; international register; technical assistance for developing countries), alongside effective bilateral negotiations."
In addition, Recommendation 1(2)(2) pays attention to the relationship between GI protection and traditional trademark law:
"the use of trademarks to protect GIs outside the European Union is certainly a feasible idea; however, it would not solve the problem of international protection for designations, as it would be complex (given the number of countries potentially concerned) and costly (ie, feasible only for large commercial organizations with sufficient financial resources) while failing to provide full protection."
A particularly controversial area is that of genericity. Recommendation 1(2)(5) states that:
"among other things, in the light of disputes that have arisen to date, [...] creating more finely-tuned instruments for establishing more easily the longstanding existence and/or reputation of a name, such as an authority (or adjudication board) which could act as a buffer and/or provide oversight regarding potential protected designations of origin within the EU member states, or other such forums for out-of-court settlement."
In addition, the use of Community symbols was the subject of scrutiny in Recommendation 1(2)(6), which claims that:
"merging the symbols for protected designations of origin (PDOs) and protected geographical indications (PGIs) may risk creating an inequality between two concepts of equal worth, established and rooted in various geographical areas. In view of the need to make products more recognizable to consumers, greater graphical distinction should therefore be ensured between PDOs and PGIs (eg, different colours). The other European symbols (TSGs [traditional specialities guaranteed], organic), however, should be further differentiated (maybe using different symbols)."
Jeremy Phillips, IP consultant to Olswang, London
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