Book Review: The Transformation of EU Geographical Indications Law

There are still some weeks of summer left, and so, if you are searching for the perfect (IP) read, this Kat has the pleasure to introduce you to ‘The Transformation of EU Geographical Indications Law’, by Andrea Zappalaglio (Routledge, 2021).

The book looks at the evolution of the origin link – the key aspect of the EU’s sui generis geographical indications (GI) system. Both Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) rely on the origin link (e.g., a connection between the product and the place, from which it originates), but in different modalities, as described below. Through the six chapters of the book, Zappalaglio traces the genesis of the origin link in the PDO and PGI quality schemes, its current state, and then offers a forecast regarding its continuing evolution so as to cover non-agricultural GIs.

In Chapter 1, Zappalaglio starts with a discussion of the French and Italian roots of the PDO quality scheme, as well as historical approaches to the concept of ‘terroir’, on which PDOs’ origin link is based. The author follows the emergence of terroir in French law. Terroir is a dual (and enigmatic, for non-GI lawyers) concept, which encompasses soil conditions and human resources in a given geographical area, characteristics that then define the quality of the product originating from the area. Zappalaglio complements this analysis with a discussion of the early GI regime in Italy, a field of GI law that remains under researched in European scholarship.

Chapter 2 is dedicated to the other quality scheme, PGIs, and ‘reputation’ as a self-standing origin link for PGIs. The EU PGI scheme originates from German and UK protection systems, and is rooted in unfair competition and passing off laws. Based on an empirical analysis of all EU GIs, Zappalaglio proposes a definition for the reputational link, defining it as—

‘the image conveyed by the product to the public, that distinguishes it from similar goods and that links it to a specific place’.

Chapter 3 covers the history of the EU GI regime. The author traces the path that the EU took to reach this sui generis system, introduced in 1992. He does this by addressing two dimensions: the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which impacted the GI regime internally, as well as the position of the EU on GIs during the TRIPS Agreement negotiations (which revealed the EU’s vision for treatment internationally The final section of Chapter 3 is devoted to the early years of the EU GI regime. The author shows how, already in 1990s, GIs were more popular in Southern European, than Central and Northern European, countries.

The empirical analysis presented in Chapter 4 discusses the evolution of the EU GI regime after Regulation 1151/2012 on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs. The research is based on a quantitative analysis of the content of the specifications of all the EU GIs. Zappalaglio observes regional trends in GI registration, which he complements with an analysis of the GIs registered by the EU Member States that joined the EU after 2004.

Zappalaglio's empirical research confirms that the PGI system has become the preferred quality scheme in the EU, as it has a less arduous registration procedure. The author also points to value of being able to show the historical provenance of the product as a key component of the origin link, as described further below.

In Chapter 5, Zappalaglio elaborates on the suitability of showing a product’s history as the basis of the origin link. Although it is not explicitly mentioned in Regulation 1151/2012, a product’s history (e.g., early mention of a product in historical documents) has always been an inherent element of the origin link for both PDOs and PGIs. The author first brings several examples of a product’s history, such as the case of Gruyère cheese, as the basis of the origin link. He then describes types of evidence that can be used to prove such an historical link, e.g., the product was mentioned in an old encyclopedia. The chapter finishes with the author’s reflections on the limits that history can offer as a basis of the origin link.

The book closes with Chapter 6, which looks into the possible future of the EU sui generis regime, namely expanding protection to non-agricultural products. Such protection is currently fragmented within the EU (only France offers GI protection for this category of products).

Zappalaglio’s discussion is thus highly topical. He looks at the French model (itself based on the PGI quality scheme) to see whether it could be applied at the EU-wide level (considering as well which body would be responsible for registration of EU non-agricultural GIs).

As Prof. Dev Gangjee said, during the official book launch event,-

‘The book is a story of legal innovation around traditional products, a very careful and meditated study of how the law has evolved and innovated over the course of the century in reaction to changing ideas about the product and place’.

ISBN: 9780367338411
Published by: Routledge
Format: Hardback and eBook
Price: £120.00 and £33.29

Book Review: The Transformation of EU Geographical Indications Law Book Review: The Transformation of EU Geographical Indications Law Reviewed by Anastasiia Kyrylenko on Tuesday, August 17, 2021 Rating: 5

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