For the half-year to 31 December 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Rebecca Gulbul, Lucas Michels and Marie-Andrée Weiss.

Regular round-ups of the previous week's blogposts are kindly compiled by Alberto Bellan.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Use hyperlinks, frustrated Kat urges European bureaucrats

The IPKat is staring at his computer screen, face-to-face with Commission Regulation 1108/2010 of 30 November 2010 approving a non-minor amendment to the specification for a name entered in the register of protected designations of origin and protected geographical indications (Castagna del Monte Amiata (PGI)).  For the uninitiated, Castagna del Monte Amiata is a protected geographical indication for an Italian chestnut.  This means that no other traders can use the term for chestnuts -- even if they come from the chestnut's catchment area  -- if their products do not comply with the specification for the use of that term.  The PGI protection has implications for trade mark law too, since you can't get away with registering a trade mark that is the same as, or likely to be confused with, someone else's PGI -- and there is no official mechanism under trade mark law for deeming them to be generic, descriptive or non-distinctive either.

Now, the problem is this.  Each PGI (this applies to protected designations of origin too) is the subject of a unique piece of European legislation, a Commission Regulation which is automatically binding on all 27 Member States of the European Union.  In order to discover what the item protected and the scope of protection is, you take a look at the Regulation on the Commission's website and discover, to your annoyance, that it doesn't give you the information you want.  For that you have to dig up the application for protection, which is separately published on the Official Journal website.  In the case of our Italian chestnut, much the same applies: the Regulation that approves the amendment of the specification doesn't tell you what the amendment covers.  You have to dig up a separate document (in this case, it's here).
In this instance we learn that, in the specification,
"‘Chestnut groves for nut production … growing exclusively on soils resulting from the decomposition of trachyte, are therefore considered to be suitable’,
has been replaced by:
‘Chestnut groves for nut production … growing on soils mostly resulting from volcanic and are- naceous rocks, and in any case predominantly or to a considerable extent composed of silica, are therefore considered to be suitable.’
This amendment concerning the soils on which the trees grow is needed because the existing product specification for which the PGI was registered in Regulation (EC) No 1904/2000 does not give a scientifically accurate geological description of the soils on which the Monte Amiata chestnut groves grow.
Recently, a more accurate and detailed geological study of the area in which the PGI is grown has revealed that the rocks classified as ‘Trachite del Monte Amiata’ (Monte Amiata trachyte) are found in only two small districts and that, in fact, the soils suitable for cultivation of the crop mostly result from volcanic and arenaceous rocks, and are consequently predominantly or to a considerable extent composed of silica, as stated in the proposed amendment to the second paragraph of Article 4 of the specification.
The amendment is therefore required to prevent a significant part of the land in the production area being excluded".
So at least we find out what the amendment is.  The application to amend also helpfully provides a summary of what you have do to in order to comply with the specification as amended.

So what's the problem?  In theory there isn't one.  But the IPKat is increasingly puzzled at the lack of imagination that attends the publication of these documents online on the Official Journal website.  In the olden days, before computers either existed or could be used for the storage and retrieval of information and its online dissemination, documents such as this were printed and depended on the conventions which attended the publication of printed documents.  Documents to which reference was made would be cited by reference to their number and there would be a footnoted reference to them.

Now the year is 2011 and we all use computers.  Most of us do not have sets of tens of thousands of daily releases of the Official Journal going back to the earliest days of the then Common Market to which we can make convenient reference.  However, if you access the Regulation on the amendment of Castagna del Monte Amiata and want to know if it will affect you, there is no hyperlink to the original application to protect the term as a PGI, no hyperlink to the Regulation conferring protection and no hyperlink to the application to amend -- which contains the information you most need.  Instead you are referred by footnotes to such references as OJ L 327, 18.12.1996, p. 11 or OJ L 228, 8.9.2000, p. 57.  This is tedious, time-wasting and can lead to error and frustration.

This issue doesn't just affect PGIs and PDOs, by the way -- it affects all cross-referenced documents.  When one accesses materials provided by private sector enterprises, helpful hyperlinks are almost routinely provided these days.  Why can the European Commission not arrange to do likewise?  Merpel says, it will probably require an amendment to existing legislation, which will have to go through a tedious, time-wasting procedure which may lead to error and frustration ...

5 comments:

Dave Sant said...

That is frustrating. Leaving aside the obvious need for a hyperlink, it's hard to find the citation even on the printed version! It's almost as frustrating as my own Chestnut-foraging trip to Greenwich Park a few weekends ago. No chestnuts. Just empty husks and some very overweight squirrels.

Tom Farrand said...

Perhaps the OHIM can donate some of its surplus Euros and technology/knowhow towards solving this issue. As you say, it does impact on trade marks and their registration/protection.
OHIM needs to do something with the surplus before the Euro goes up in smoke.

Arthur Sleep said...

That's just nuts!

devgangjee said...

Can I suggest using the Bacchus and Doors databases when looking for all relevant documentation?
http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/quality/database/index_en.htm

Its a practical workaround in the meanwhile.

Kevin Coates said...

Jeremy

I was going to point you to Eur-Lex, the online, hyperlinked source of all things EU. But...

Although the document you mention is there:
http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:32010R1108:EN:NOT
It doesn't link to the earlier document, even though that is also available on Eur-Lex:
http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:32010R1108:EN:NOT
And clicking on "Select all documents based on this document" in the latter does not take you to the former.

I haven't seen anything like this before - usually the cross-referencing in Eur-Lex works very well. Finding all court cases that mention a particular piece of legislation, for example, is extremely easy and useful.

It might be worth drawing it to the attention of the helpdesk at eurlex-helpdesk@publications.europa.eu.

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