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Archived updates for Friday, April 14, 2006

WTO Polarised on GI Extensions as EU System Grows

According to Tove Iren S. Gerhardsen writing for Intellectual Property Watch, there was no significant movement in members' positions during the April 13 World Trade Organization consultations on whether to extend geographical indication (GI) protection for wines and spirits to other products. Proponents want the higher level protection that wines and spirits currently enjoy under Article 23 of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to also apply to other GI products, which currently have to be protected but only at the “regular” level under Article 22 of TRIPS. One participant reportedly said the discussions have become polarised with the European Union, Bulgaria, India, Sri Lanka and Switzerland speaking in favour of extension, and Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, New Zealand and the United States opposing it.

At the same time, the Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries of the European Union (CIAA) released its annual report targeting the EU's geographical indications system as needing a "fundamental" review. CIAA is concerned that the system's credibility as a quality assurance scheme is being undermined by the vast number of applications for trademark protection under the system:

The EU instruments of Protected Denomination of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) protect a product's name and are based on specific quality standards and methods of production. Currently, almost 700 PDOs and PGIs have been registered in the EU. More than 200 cases are still awaiting registration. There has been a rapid increase in the number of registered names and insufficient
assurances concerning the specific requirements and characteristics of such products.

The large numbers of PGI and PDO products already registered, along with
the numerous cases still pending remain a matter of concern for the industry. It
may make PDO and PGI products more commonplace. There is also a risk that PDO or PGI labelled foodstuffs will lose not only credibility, but also their comparative advantage.

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