‘Geographical Indications’ on artisanal and industrial ‘non-food’ products, the new EU rules

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Geographical Indication

Regulation (EU) No 2023/2411 introduces a specific regime for the protection of ‘Geographical Indications’ (GIs) on artisanal and industrial ‘non-food’ products. Also providing for them similar protection to that already in place for GIs in the agri-food sector. (1)

1) Protection of the ‘non-food’ artisan and industrial tradition, premise

The European Commission had started a series of consultations in 2013 on the opportunity to introduce a quality regime for artisanal and industrial ‘non-food’ products, similar to that already established for agri-food products. The proposal was welcomed by both stakeholders and the Council. Following an impact assessment, the hypothesis of using a regulation – that is, a set of identical rules, to be applied uniformly in the 27 Member States – has received the greatest consensus.

The main objectives of the regulation I’m:

  • protect the names of traditional European quality, artisanal and industrial productions, in whose supply chains SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) often participate, with a view to
  • promote the value of productions with a long history behind them, through the introduction of a specific quality system harmonized in the EU, and so
  • promote the competitiveness of the micro, small and medium-sized enterprises involved, with economic advantages and positive employment effects, especially in rural areas, increasingly at risk of abandonment.

Quality brands – in addition to guaranteeing consumers the authenticity of the products on offer – they will allow the ‘know how’ linked to traditional productions to be preserved and will be able to offer new opportunities for tourism at a local level.

2) Regulation (EU) 2023/2411

Regulation (EU) 2023/2411 on geographical indications for artisanal and industrial productions it follows in the footsteps of the one dedicated to agri-food products. (2) Only the PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) or PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) symbol is reserved for artisanal and industrial productions.

2.1) Artisanal and industrial products, definition and requirements

For ‘crafts and industrial those are meant:

‘a) made entirely by hand, or with the aid of manual or digital tools, or by mechanical means, with the manual contribution constituting an important component of the finished product, or

b) made in a standardized way, including mass production and through the use of machines‘. (EU regulation 2023/2411, article 4, paragraph 1).

Our products artisans and industrialists founded their own know-how on local production methods, rooted in the cultural and social heritage of the region of origin. To benefit from the protection given by geographical indications, products must have the following characteristics:

a) be from a specific place, region or country,

b) the quality, reputation or other characteristic of the product is essentially attributable to its geographical origin, e

c) at least one of its production phases takes place in the defined geographical area.

Another feature fundamental to access this protection is that the products are not contrary to public order (EU regulation 2023/2411, article 6).

2.2) Applicants

Geographical indications they can be used by all producers who are part of the delimited geographical area. The registration application can be submitted by:

– a group of producers, or, by way of derogation,

– a single producer, when he is the only one interested or the only one producing a characteristic product of the delimited geographical area,

– a regional or local authority, or a private body designated by the Member State,

– multiple applicants, based in one or more Member States and third countries, if the product originates from a cross-border area,

at a Member State or, in case of derogation granted to it, at EUIPO, European Union Intellectual Property Office (Article 8).

2.3) Production regulations

The quality system of the artisanal and industrial ‘non food’ ‘Geographical Indications’ – such as that of the agri-food GIs – is based on a specification which must include:

a) name to be protected, i.e. geographical name of the place of production or name used in commercial practice or in common language,

b) type of product,

c) description of the product and, where appropriate, raw materials,

d) geographical area and information establishing the link between the geographical area and a quality, reputation or other characteristic of the product,

e) elements that demonstrate that the product belongs to the geographical area, also by indicating the production phases that take place in the geographical area,

f) description of the production methods, possibly traditional ones,

g) information relating to the packaging, if it is expected that it must come from the same geographical area,

h) any specific rules for labelling,

i) illustration of the phases that take place outside the territory from which the product originates,

j) other requirements established by Member States or by a producer association that are objective, non-discriminatory, compatible with Union and national rules (EU Reg. 2023/2411, Article 9).

3) Registration procedure

The procedure Registration includes two phases:

– the first phase takes place at national level, pursuant to Articles 12-16,

– the second phase takes place at European Union level, in accordance with articles 21-30 (EU regulation 2023/2411, article 7).

3.1) National registration

Member States are competent to receive registration applications. For this purpose, they appoint a dedicated authority which is also responsible for the procedures for modifying the specifications, opposing or canceling the registration (art. 12, paragraph 1).

The competent authority receives, also electronically, the applications which must contain the specifications, the single document and the accompanying documentation (4,5), and evaluates their compliance. Allowing the applicant to modify it, if it is incomplete or inaccurate, within a set deadline. When the application meets the requirements of the Regulation, the authority shall submit the application without undue delay to the Office.

The Member State interested party, pending the Office’s decision, may grant the geographical indication temporary protection which is valid only within national borders and has no effect on international trade.

3.2) Registration at European Union level

EUIPO, directly., European Union Intellectual Property Office, has the role of registering GIs on artisanal and industrial ‘non-food’ products at European Union level. Within 6 months of receipt, the Office assesses that there are no errors in the application and that it is complete. Otherwise, EUIPO invites the requesting Member State to complete or correct the application within two months, under penalty of rejection (art 23).

The office has the power to adopt decisions on applications for registration, requests for modification of specifications, objections raised and registrations or cancellations of registrations (art. 34). It also has the task of establishing the electronic register of geographical indications which iseasily accessible to the public and in a machine-readable format‘(Article 37).

4) Protection of GIs

The registration of GIs on artisanal and industrial ‘non-food’ products registered in the register protects them from:

a) any direct or indirect commercial use of the geographical indication for products which are not the subject of registration, where the latter are comparable to the products which are the subject of registration or where the use of that name exploits, weakens, undermines or damages the reputation of the Protected Geographical Indication,

(b) any usurpation, imitation or evocation of the name protected as a geographical indication, even if the true origin of the goods or services is indicated or if the protected geographical indication is a translation or is accompanied by expressions such as «kind, «type», « method”, “in the manner”, “imitation”, “taste”, “fragrance”, “as” or a similar expression,

c) any other false or misleading indication relating to the provenance, origin, nature or essential characteristics of the product used on the wrapping or packaging, in advertising materials, in documents or in information provided on online interfaces relating to the product, so such as the use, for the packaging of the product, of containers that may mislead as to its origin,

d) any other practice that may mislead the consumer as to the true origin of the product‘ (art 40).

The protection it also applies to goods sold remotely, for example via e-commerce. Groups or individual producers holding the right to use GIs can (act to) prevent third parties from marketing goods that violate the above prohibitions.

4.1) Protection of GIs as part of the artefact

Use of a Geographical Indication is also permitted when a product or artefact contains or incorporates a product designated with it, with the prior consent of the owner of the indication. Such use must comply with fair commercial practices and must not exploit, weaken, weaken or damage the reputation of the GI (art. 41).

4.2) The case of homonymy, art 43

In general, a homonymous or partially homonymous name of an already registered GI cannot be registered. However, if there is sufficient differentiation of conditions of use and local and traditional presentations in practice, the name may be registered due to the need to ensure fair treatment of producers and in such a way that consumers are not misled.

5) Producer groups

The groups of producers are designated as the first candidate applicants for GIs on artisanal and industrial products since it is hoped that their union can strengthen the positions and bargaining power of individuals. They ‘operate in a transparent, open and non-discriminatory manner and in a way that allows all producers of the product designated by a geographical indication to join the producer association at any time‘.

The skills of producer groups include the development and modification of specifications, the (only possible) adoption of commitments on sustainability, checks on product conformity, the actions necessary to protect the geographical indication from violations of property rights and counterfeiting. As well as technical and economic analyzes and promotional activities (art. 45).

6) Provisional conclusions

The rules (EU) 2023/2411 appears to have the potential to promote manufacturing clusters and local economies in Member States. In the hope of relaunching the activities of artisanal and microscopic businesses, in the broader category of SMEs that European policies seem to have forgotten after the vain proclamations of the Lisbon strategy (2000).

A new blood, hopefully, to draw attention to villages and territories which in recent decades have recorded significant losses, in economic and demographic terms, due to delocalisation towards countries where production costs are more advantageous. Also due to social, wage and environmental dumping.

6.1) Perspectives

Potential candidates to the registration of Geographical Indications on ‘non-food’ products are numerous. In Italy one can think of the mechanical industry in Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont, but also of the ceramics of Deruta and Caltagirone, the violin making of Cremona, the glass of Murano, the shoemaking of Civitanova Marche, the knives of Pattada, etc.

Member States they will have until 2025 December 12 to communicate to the Commission and the Office the names and addresses of the designated competent authorities (art. 3, par XNUMX).

Dario Dongo and Alessandra Mei

On the cover, Vietri ceramics from Solimene Art https://www.solimeneart.it 

Footnotes

(1) Regulation (EU) 2023/2411 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 October 2023 on the protection of geographical indications for craft and industrial products and amending Regulations (EU) 2017/1001 and (EU) 2019/1753 https://tinyurl.com/543hpn57

(2) Dario Dongo, Alessandra Mei. Geographical Indications, GIs. What’s new in the European Union. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 1.11.23

(3) The single document must be drawn up using the standard form set out in Annex II to Regulation (EU) 2023/2411. It contains the name to be protected, the type of product, its description, any requirements on packaging and labelling, the delimitation of the geographical area and the description of the link between the geographical area and the product (art. 10)

(4) The accompanying documentation includes the name and contact details of the applicant and the designated competent authority, information on any limitations on the use or protection of the indication and any other information deemed appropriate by the Member State or the applicant (Article 11)

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

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Graduated in Law from the University of Bologna, she attended the Master in Food Law at the same University. You participate in the WIISE srl benefit team by dedicating yourself to European and international research and innovation projects.