European Parliament approves Regulation on Geographical Indications for wines, spirit drinks and agricultural products

Yesterday, the European Parliament adopted the Regulation on geographical indications (GIs) for wines, spirit drinks and agricultural products (GI Regulation). The text, as agreed in interinstitutional negotiations, is available here. This brings to its final stage the comprehensive GI reform, initiated by the European Union (EU) back in 2020.

Unlike the EU GI system for craft and industrial products [see The IPKat here], the new GI Regulation will be less disruptive: it is not creating a new GI system, but is rather amending certain aspects of the existing one(s). For the first time since the creation of EU-wide GI rights, a single GI Regulation will address GIs for the different categories of products (wines, spirit drinks, agricultural products) that were previously regulated in separate legal acts.

In the post, this Kat summarises some of the points that caught her attention in the new GI Regulation.

Registration process

Building on the already existing rules, registration process under the GI Regulation will consist of a national phase, followed by an EU-wide phase. Examination at the EU-wide level will be conducted by the European Commission. The GI Regulation introduces rigorous deadlines for every step, previously less detailed in the case of wines.

Role of EUIPO

The role of European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) in examining the GI applications was one of the most contentious points in the negotiations over the GI Regulation. While the European Commission originally sought to enhance the EUIPO’s role in examination, associations of GI producers opposed this, stating that GIs should not be approximated to trade marks.

In the final text, EUIPO has a rather administrative function: it will maintain a GI registry and manage a domain name information and alert system. This comes in sharp contrast with EUIPO’s functions with regard to GIs for crafts and industrial products: there, EUIPO is fully in charge of the Union’s phase of examination.

Scope of protection

The GI Regulation preserves the four levels of protection for GIs that we already find in the current legislation (e.g. Art. 13(1) Regulation (EU) No 1151/2012).

Surprisingly, unlike Regulation (EU) 2023/2411 on GIs for crafts and industrial products, the GI Regulation does not include a definition of evocation in the dispositive part, but in the preamble instead. According to Recital 19a,
[b]uilding on the established case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union [CJEU], evocation of a [GI] may arise, in particular, where a link with the product covered by the registered [GI], including with reference to a term, sign, or other labelling or packaging device, is present in the mind of the average European consumer who is reasonably well informed, observant and circumspect.
This mostly coincides with the CJEU’s case law, but fails to mention that such link shall be “direct and clear”. This is, however, included in the definition of evocation for crafts and industrial products (Art. 40(2) Regulation (EU) 2023/2411). Considering how contentious the concept of “evocation” is overall, the two definitions should at least be aligned.

The GI Regulation also clarifies rules on the use of GIs as ingredients in processed products, building on earlier CJEU jurisprudence.

In parallel, GI protection (including against evocation) is expanded to goods in transit. This move is criticized by scholars, as it goes against international law and places excessive burden on customs officers. Moreover, the GI Regulation codifies CJEU ruling in C-159/20, according to which EU Member States must prevent unlawful uses of GIs also in exports.

The protection is also broadened to encompass all domain names that are accessible in the EU irrespective of the place of establishment of the relevant registries. GIs may be invoked in alternative dispute resolution procedures for domain names.

Cancellation of GIs for non-use

Under the legislation currently in force, only GIs for agricultural products and spirits are subject to cancellation due to non-use for at least seven years. Under the new GI Regulation, GIs for wines, spirit drinks and agricultural products may all be cancelled if no product has been placed on the market under the GI for at least the last seven consecutive years.

Other aspects

This Kat also notes two additional aspects of the new GI Regulation.

First, the EU policy-makers decided to preserve the system of Traditional Specialities Guaranteed (TSGs). TSGs are products that have specific qualities, but whose qualities are not related to their origin from a specific area or region. Some examples are jamón serrano and pizza napoletana. With only 88 registered TSGs and despite the apparent unsuccess of this scheme, the EU decided to preserve it in the new GI Regulation.

Second, the GI Regulation includes optional provisions on sustainability [see also The IPKat here]. Under the GI Regulation, producer groups may now voluntarily adhere to sustainable production practices, defined in terms of social, environmental or economic impacts.

Next steps

The text will now be formally adopted by the Council. It is foreseen that the GI Regulation will be published in the Official Journal in April 2024. It will be applicable as of 1 January 2025.
European Parliament approves Regulation on Geographical Indications for wines, spirit drinks and agricultural products European Parliament approves Regulation on Geographical Indications for wines, spirit drinks and agricultural products Reviewed by Anastasiia Kyrylenko on Thursday, February 29, 2024 Rating: 5

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