Geographical indications, 75 billion euros in EU. The database and the protections that are missing

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EU-registered geographical indications represent a treasure trove of nearly 75 billion euros. The European Union Intellectual Property Office, EUIPO, has just dedicated a special database, GIview, to it. Which is in addition to that of the International Bureau, WIPO.

The European Commission promises new commitments to strengthen their protection against counterfeiting. But the most serious problems remain internal, in the Single Market and within certified supply chains, where unequal trade relations jeopardize quality.

Geographical indications, the European GIview database.


GIview
is the database established at EUIPO(European Union Intellectual Property Office), presented on 25.11.20, which collects the updated list of all geographical indications (PDO, PGI, TSG, DOC, DOCG):

– registered and protected in the European Union,

– registered in EU and protected in one or more third countries, based on bilateral and multilateral agreements (e.g. EU-Switzerland, EU-China),

– registered in third countries and protected in the EU, again on the basis of international agreements. (1)

The GIview database provides a single point of access to detailed information, for consumers and regulators, as well as intellectual property professionals and supply chain operators. The latter thus have an opportunity to check the compatibility of labels and advertisements that include geographical references with the prohibitions on usurpation and evocation of protected GIs (2,3).

#DopEconomy, € 17 billion in Italy

The #DopEconomy-that is, the value of products registered as Geographical Indications (GIs)-plays a crucial role in the old continent’s agrifood economy. Especially in the Bel Paese, which holds 27 percent of the registered GIs on the planet (839 out of 3,123). ISMEA and Qualivita’s ‘#DopEconomy 2020‘ report shows how PDOs, PGIs, TSGs, DOCs, DOCGs represent:

– 19 percent of Italy’s total agribusiness turnover of 16.9 billion euros,
– 21 percent of Italian foodexports, accounting for 9.5 billion euros,
– 185,000 employed (2019 data). (4)

Geographical indications in EU, a € 74.76 billion treasure trove

The Agriculture and Rural Development Commission, in its report updated to February 2021, puts the value of European geographical indications at 74.76 billion euros, accounting for 7 percent of total sales and 15.5 percent of exports. (5) Wines account for more than half of the value, agricultural and food products 35%, and spirits 13% (2017 data).

The selling prices of certified products are double, on average, compared to unregistered equivalents (so-called similars). With an average value award in the different categories of:

+185% on wines,

+152% for alcoholic beverages,

+50% for agricultural and food products.

Protecting EU geographical indications from counterfeiting

Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Janusz Wojciechowski, in his answer 18.2.21 to a question from Leghist MEP Gianantonio Da Re (6,7), clarified the following:

– levels and mechanisms of protection for geographical indications (GIs) are variously defined in individual international agreements. (8) ‘GIview allows all stakeholders to clearly see where EU GIs are protected in the world.’

– ‘monitoring and combating the counterfeiting of intellectual property rights worldwide, including geographical indications, is a priority of the Commission.’

– 25.11.20 the Commission presented the Action Plan on Intellectual Property (IP), which includes special initiatives for so-called rural intellectual property rights, (9)

– The European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights, established at EUIPO by reg. EU 386/12, has the specific tasks of monitoring fraud and facilitating the interaction of violated rights holders with police, customs and anti-fraud bodies (10,11).

International registration protection, the Lisbon system

On 2/26/20 theGeneva Act entered into force and so did the EU’s accession to the Lisbon Agreement–62 years after its launch, better late than never–on the protections of geographical indications(Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and their International Registration).

As a result of this agreement, as noted above, protection of GIs is now granted under WIPO(Worldwide Intellectual Property Organization). With a single entry in turn accessible on the
Lisbon Express database
.

The protections that are missing

From words to actions, food fraud remains an unresolved problem at the European level, as we have seen. And controls on the usurpations and evocations of the most famous PDOs are lacking first and foremost in the member states, as well. The domestic market is the primary trading area for European geographical indications, and this is where attention should be focused, including by consortia. (12)

The protection most lacking, however, is that of primary agricultural production. Agricultural raw materials are often purchased below cost, even resorting to the expedient of conferring in cooperatives to evade the application of regulations prohibiting it (e.g., Pecorino, Grana Padano, Gorgonzola). And the representatives of the agricultural parties in the Protection Consortia sometimes succumb to imbalance of bargaining power, other times they are connived by conflicts of interest.

Possible solutions

Italy urgently needs strict implementation of EU Directive 2019/633 to combat unfair trade practices. Also in light of the aforementioned directive, the statutes of the protection consortia must be revised to ensure fair remuneration for primary agricultural production, which is the only guarantee of maintaining quality.

The public blockchain now appears to be the most appropriate tool to guarantee with an incorruptible ‘digital notary’ geolocation, authenticity and compliance with specifications on certified quality products. It should also be used to ensure:

– compliance with the rules for agricultural commodity pricing , which the CUN pig case has shown to be blatantly violated with the connivance of MiPAAF,

transparency of the value chain, which the consumer is entitled to know and can actually appreciate, as a logical premise of quality.

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) EUIPO. Launch of GIview. 25.11.20,

(2) Dario Dongo. PDO, EU Court of Justice clarifies ban on evocations. GIFT(Great Italian Food Trade). 3.5.19, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/etichette/dop-la-corte-di-giustizia-ue-chiarisce-il-divieto-di-evocazioni

(3) 100% Sicilian extra virgin olive oil, lawyer Dario Dongo replies. FARE(Food and Agriculture Requirements). 6.1.19, https://www.foodagriculturerequirements.com/archivio-notizie/domande-e-risposte/olio-extravergine-d-oliva-100-siciliano-risponde-l-avvocato-dario-dongo

(4) Marta Strinati, Dario Dongo. #DopEconomy, ISMEA – Qualivita 2020 report. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 12/13/20, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/mercati/dopeconomy-rapporto-ismea-qualivita-2020

(5) AND International, European Commission (DG Agri, Unit C.4), Ecorsys (2021). Study on economic value of EU quality schemes, geographical indications (GIs) and traditional specialities guaranteed (TSGs). Publication Office at the European Union. doi:10.2762/396490, https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/a7281794-7ebe-11ea-aea8-01aa75ed71a1/language-en

(6) European Parliament, Hon. Gianantonio Da Re (ID, Identity and Democracy Group). Question with request for written answer to the Commission E-006617/2020. 16.12.20

(7) Response by Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Janusz Wojciechowski on behalf of the European Commission to Question E-006617/2020, 18.2.21

(8) The writer has at one time denounced the inadequate levels of protection for Italian PDOs and PGIs in the agreements with Japan (JEFTA, see https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/idee/jefta-lettera-aperta-ai-consorzi-delle-nostre-dop-e-igp) and Canada (CETA, see https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/idee/ceta-il-made-in-italy-tradito). But the Coldiretti magic circle and its puppets have accepted Parmesan as well, in the name of free trade

(9) European Commission. Making the most of the EU’s innovation potential Intellectual Property Action Plan to support EU recovery and resilience. Communication 25.11.20 [COM/2020/760 final], https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/IT/ALL/?uri=CELEX%3A52020DC0760. See pages 6,7,8

(10) European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights. V. https://ec.europa.eu/growth/industry/policy/intellectual-property/enforcement/infringements-observatory_en

(11) EUIPO. IP enforcement portal, https://euipo.europa.eu/ohimportal/en/web/observatory/ip-enforcement-portal-home-page

(12) The only truly effective and efficient protection consortium in monitoring and combating imitations seems to be that of Parmigiano Reggiano DOP (see https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade .it/mercati/parmesans-un-altro-ko-al-cheese-sounding)

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.