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Archived updates for Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Both Sides Claim Vindication on Geographic Indications, Where's the Beef?

According to a December 21 press release from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), a WTO dispute-settlement panel in Geneva has ruled that the EU GI registry violates the WTO intellectual property rights agreement (TRIPs) because it discriminates against non-EU products:

"The WTO panel agreed with the United States that Europe's regulation discriminates against U.S. products and producers and is therefore contrary to WTO rules. The panel also agreed with the United States that Europe could not, consistent with WTO rules, deny U.S. trademark owners their rights. The panel emphasized that any exceptions to trademark rights for the use of registered GIs were narrow and limited to the actual GI name as registered.

The United States challenged the EU GI Regulation on two primary grounds: (1) discrimination against U.S. GIs (national treatment) and (2) failure to protect U.S. trademarks. The panel agreed with the United States that this would present concerns under the TRIPS Agreement, and found that the GI Regulation could only protect GI names as registered, and not linguistic variations of the GIs."


According to a December 21, report from Associated Press, EU officials took issue with that claim, saying they had not impeded geographic registrations from producers outside of Europe. "We did not impede the registration of third countries' GI's. We even welcome it," Claude Veron-Reville, an EU spokeswoman on trade issues, reportedly said in Brussels. "The panel has vindicated our GI system."

The U.S. and European officials were commenting on a WTO report that was provided Tuesday to the parties in the dispute but has not yet been made public. Why not? If government officials are going to make hearsay public statements, then the least that they can do is also release the information that forms the basis for those statements. Where's the beef?
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