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Archived updates for Thursday, November 03, 2005

EU Conditions Farm Tariff Cuts on GI Expansion

According to the November 2, 2005 issue of Bridges Weekly Trade Digest, the European Union's October 28 offer to cut farm tariffs in the WTO's "Doha Round" negotiations was explicitly conditional on the extension of binding GI protection, currently available only to wine and spirits like Champagne, to all products.

The EU has asked for a multilateral register to be established for the notification and registration of these GIs, which would be binding on all Members. Countries would thus be required to prevent GIs from being misused, and to deny applications for trademarks containing GIs. Although the EU said that it would not require other Members to invalidate all of their existing trademarks that contain GIs, it would have them to do so for "a limited number of well known GIs which are being used in third countries." This issue has long been deadlocked, with Members firmly entrenched on opposite sides of the debate.

The EU, Switzerland and a number of developing countries have been pushing for 'GI extension,' in opposition to the US, Australia and other 'New World' countries that are net agricultural exporters as well as frequent users of 'Old World' GIs for their own food products.

The following is excerpted from the EU proposal entitled "Making Hong Kong a Success : Europe’s Contribution - Brussels, 28 October 2005:"

Improving the protection of GIs is an integral part of market access in agriculture. European agriculture is to an ever increasing extent focusing on high value added products for which suitable protection of the equivalent of a trade mark, ie geographical indications, is obviously essential. Without such protection, our products are exposed to unfair competition on world markets. In this context the EU has the following objectives:

  • The protection available today for GIs for wine and spirits under Article 23 of
    the TRIPS Agreement should be extended to all products. This means that the
    obligation to provide the legal means to prevent use of a GI and the obligation to refuse or invalidate trademarks containing or consisting of a GI, should be
    extended to all cases concerning products of the same kind not originating in the place indicated by the GI. We understand the concerns expressed by certain Members that this could oblige them to invalidate existing trade marks, legally valid in their countries. We accept that this would be a major problem and are prepared to resolve the problem in the same manner that it was resolved for wine and spirits in the Uruguay Round, ie by adjusting the exceptions of Article 24 of the TRIPS Agreement accordingly (WT/GC/W/547). In brief, this implies that existing trade marks would not be affected. This would obviously be a very major concession by
    the EU.
  • As stipulated in Article 23.4 of the TRIPS Agreement, a multilateral system of
    notification and registration of GIs should be established. The register should be open to GIs for all products and have legal effects for both participating and
    nonparticipating Members not having lodged a reservation to the registration
    of a GI. Again to address the concerns expressed by certain Members, the EC
    has also adjusted its proposal on the multilateral register (WT/GC/W/547).
  • In addition, for a limited number of well known GIs which are being used in
    third countries in a manner highly detrimental to our market access objectives, their use by others than the right holders should be prohibited. In other words, it should not be possible to invoke the exceptions provided for in Article 24 of the TRIPS Agreement to refuse protection to the GIs on this short list. The EC would be equally prepared to review this third element of its proposal to address the concerns of other Members in relation to trademark rights.
More on geographical indications here.
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