European Commission publishes the evaluation results for the GI and TSG reform

Just before closing down for Christmas, the European Commission published the “Evaluation on geographical indications (GIs) and traditional specialities guaranteed (TSGs) protection in the EU” [to download the evaluation, click here and scroll down to the bottom of the page].

The evaluation is the penultimate step in the revision of the GI system in the EU. The idea to revise the GI rules was first expressed in the Commission’s Farm to Fork Strategy in May 2020, and later included in the Commission’s Action Plan on Intellectual Property. According to the Action Plan, the revision aims at strengthening the protection system for agricultural products. In parallel, the European Commission is also considering whether to expand EU-wide GI protection to non-agricultural products [check a dedicated web-page with all the studies conducted by the Commission in this regard].

As part of the preparatory analysis, the Commission undertook the evaluation of existing norms to see whether the EU’s GI policy had achieved its objectives. The evaluation covered the period from May 2008 (when the last evaluation was conducted) to the end of 2020. The analysis builds upon several sources of data, such as external economic studies and the public consultation recently conducted by the Commission (though the document acknowledges the low response rate of the public consultation).

The EU GI system is evaluated on the basis of five criteria: relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, coherence, and EU-added value. Expectedly, the evaluation concludes that the EU GI system fulfils all these five criteria (though certain improvements are suggested).

Out of the evaluation criteria, effectiveness is perhaps the most insightful. Here, the authors of the study discern six main objectives of the GIs/TSGs schemes, then to assess whether they have been achieved. The objectives include integrity of the internal market, fair competition for farmers and producers, protection of GIs as an intellectual property right, contribution of GIs/TSGs to rural economies, as well as provision of clear and reliable information to consumers.

Beyond its primary objective (that of underpinning the legal reform), the evaluation may thus be used as a comprehensive source of information on all relevant studies on GIs. It conveniently summarises research on GIs and employment in rural areas (GIs generally stimulate rural employment), GIs and price premium (on average the sales value of GI/TSG products was 2.07 times higher than that of comparable non-GI/TSG products), or on the cost of processing a GI application at EU level (some EUR 33 500).

Along the evaluation, several areas for improvement are identified. Such areas include lengthy and complex registration proceedings (with an estimated average of 5 to 6 years), a low awareness of GI symbols among the European consumers, or the need to better address sustainability concerns. Moreover, the evaluation suggests that data on GIs shall be structured in a dedicated data base, to facilitate further studies of the system.

The evaluation also recommends reassessing the need for a TSG protection, in light of its low popularity among the EU Member States. TSGs are used to protect traditional food products, which, unlike GIs, are not linked to a particular territory. According to the eAmbrosia database, only 66 TSGs are registered across the EU. They include Pizza Napoletana and Mozzarella from Italy or Jamón Serrano from Spain. Though the evaluation defines TSGs as an unpopular scheme, recent academic publications do indicate that TSGs are widespread in Central and Eastern Europe.

The Commission’s evaluation will now be followed with a legislative proposal and an impact assessment, to be published in the early 2022. They will address the issues, raised in the evaluation, and possibly open a new chapter for the EU GI system.
European Commission publishes the evaluation results for the GI and TSG reform European Commission publishes the evaluation results for the GI and TSG reform Reviewed by Anastasiia Kyrylenko on Wednesday, December 29, 2021 Rating: 5

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