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Quality schemes help EU producers break new markets

The promotion of geographical indications (GI) has helped EU products attract new emerging markets which seek quality food. However, Europol warns that fake GI products are on the rise across the EU and policymakers should not disregard the protection of intellectual property rights.

In a very interesting article, which you can access here, Euractiv explains how EU quality schemes support EU producers and reveals the most relevant threats to them in terms of counterfeiting of GI products. 

Terms & Tools

Geographical Indications: Terms & Tools

Do you know the difference between Roquefort and blue cheese? Roquefort is produced in a particular geographical area conveying its unique characteristics and reputation. Such quality and/or reputational link is protected as a geographical indication (GI) and allows Roquefort producers to compete in the market against numerous similar and undifferentiated products trading primarily on price. The following text shall serve as an introduction to geographical indications and the available mechanisms to protect them.

What is a geographical indication?

A geographical indication is a sign used on products with a specific geographical origin whose qualities and/or reputation are attributable to that origin. In order to function as a GI:

  • The sign must identify a product as originating in a given place (e.g. Chianti identifying a wine originating in the Italian region Chianti);
  • The qualities, characteristics or reputation of the product should be due to the place of origin (the qualities of Chianti are due to the grapes grown in the soil of that specific Italian region).

How are geographical indications protected?

Protection for a GI is obtained by acquiring a right over the name that constitutes the indication (e.g. Chianti). This right can be a specific right designed for GIs (a sui generis protection of GIs) which, depending on the different jurisdiction, may be called a protected GI, a denomination of origin (DO) or an appellation of origin (AO). In many countries, a right to the indication can also be acquired, in application of the relevant trade mark law, through the registration of a collective trade mark and/or a certification mark. While collective trade marks and certification marks are generally protected for renewable ten-year periods, protected GIs are not subject to a specific period of validity. This means that the protection will remain valid unless the GI registration is cancelled.

AO, DO, PGI, PDO… What do these abbreviations stand for?

Appellations of origin (AOs) and denominations of origin (DOs) are special kinds of geographical indications generally implying a stronger link with the place of origin (e.g. the quality and characteristics of a product protected as an AO and a DO must generally result exclusively or essentially from its geographical origin).

Protected geographical indications (PGIs) identify products whose quality or reputation is linked to the place or region where it is produced, processed or prepared, although the ingredients used need not necessarily come from that geographical area. All PGI products must also adhere to a precise set of specifications and may bear the PGI logo. Therefore, products bearing the PGI logo have a specific characteristic or reputation associating them with a given place and at least one stage in the production process must be carried out in that area, while the raw materials used in production may come from another region.

Protected designations of origin (PDOs) identify products that are produced, processed and prepared in a specific geographical area, using the recognised know-how of local producers and ingredients from the region concerned. These are products whose characteristics are strictly linked to their geographical origin and they must adhere to a precise set of specifications and may bear the PDO logo. Therefore, products bearing the PDO logo have proven characteristics resulting solely from the terrain and abilities of producers in the region of production with which they are associated. PDO products thus require all stages of the food production process to be carried out in the area concerned. There must be an objective and close link between the product’s features and its geographical origin.

Searching geographical indications

Geographical names are commonly used in business to describe and promote the features of products or services offered in the marketplace. Indeed, many products display a reference to a geographical origin in their trade mark or packaging. Since such use can conflict with a registered geographical indication and in order to avoid any conflict, several online databases are available to find out if a geographical indication is protected in a certain territory.

At national level...

Some national Intellectual Property Offices (IPOs) provide databases including a list of geographical indications that are protected within the national territory. Therefore, if you want to perform a search at national level, you can contact the relevant IPO, which may (or may not) offer a searchable database of registered GIs. A directory of IP offices is available on the WIPO website.

At European Union level...

A list of nearly 3,400 EU registered GIs can be accessed via four databases maintained by the European Commission:

At international level...

You can consult WIPO’s LISBON EXPRESS to search GIs protected under the Lisbon System.

GI enforcement

When a GI product is counterfeited in the EU, there are a wide range of actions that can be taken. In general, civil and/or penal actions are possible. However, procedure and sanctions vary from one member state to the other. Furthermore, one effective tool against counterfeiting offered by European legislation is represented by the EU customs actions, enabling right holders to request customs authorities to prevent the entry into European Union Member States of goods infringing their intellectual property rights (including GIs). In particular, customs authorities can seize products that seem to violate GI rules and can keep them in custody and destroy them, provided that the owner or the declarant of the seized goods does not oppose the destruction within ten working days from the notification of the seizure (3 days for perishable goods).

Would you like to know more about geographical indications? Check out our Bulletin issue 22 which has been entirely dedicated to the topic.

For further information, see also:

European IPR Helpdesk Factsheet "The value of geographical indications for businesses"

The EUIPO website

The WIPO website

The website of the Organization for an international Geographical Indications Network (OriGIn)




Two new geographical indications from Austria and Portugal approved by the EC

The European Commission (EC) has recently approved the addition of the following two new products to the register of Protected Geographical Indications (PGI) and Protected Designations of Origin (PDO):

  •  the Austrian “Steirische Käferbohne” (PDO), bi-coloured beans cultivated in the southern province of Styria; and
  •  the Portuguese “Pão de Ló de Ovar” (PGI),  creamy and soft yellow cake with a fine golden brown crust and a moist part interior.

These new denominations have been added to the list of over 1,350 products already protected. More information on PDO and PGI is available on the European Commission webpage on quality products and DOOR database.


European IPR Helpdesk Bulletin Issue (22)

We are pleased to inform you that Issue 22 of the European IPR Helpdesk Bulletin has been published and is now available online.

This Bulletin issue is largely dedicated to geographical indications (GIs) as a strategic differentiation tool for producers.

Particular attention is given to the mechanisms available for protecting geographical indications at national, international and European Union level.

An insight into the relationship between trade marks and GIs is offered by an article of Mr Giancarlo Moretti.

A contribution by Mr Massimo Vittori from oriGIn underlines the current challenges in protecting and enforcing GIs.

Read our interview to learn the point of view of Mr Simone Calzi from the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma on the value of GIs for businesses and the challenges in effectively protecting them.

Take a look at the article from CHAFEA and discover the recently reformed EU policy for promotion of agricultural products aiming to increase the awareness and recognition of EU quality schemes.

As always, the Bulletin reports information about past IPR events together with some fresh news on the Helpline service. In addition, it contains the usual patent quiz and a new GI quiz.

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Eight new geographical indications for Europe

The European Commission has approved the registration of eight new product names from 5 EU countries as Geographical Indications (GIs).

Registration as a GI gives wide protection to the registered names, functioning as an intellectual property right for products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin.

The eight products added are:

  • ‘Zagorski puran’, turkey from the Croatian Zagorje breed
  • ‘Poulet de l’Ardèche’/‘Chapon de l'Ardèche’, free-range chickens and capons
  • ‘Pintade de l’Ardèche’, guinea fowl bred outdoors
  • ‘Soumaintrain’, a soft cheese
  • ‘Sel de Salies-de-Béarn’, salt
  • ‘Allgäuer Sennalpkäse’, a hard cheese
  • 'Fogaça da Feira', a sweet bun with a flavour and aroma of lemon and cinnamon
  • 'Gall del Penedès’, chickens of the traditional Penedesenca breed


For more information, access the European Commission’s press release here.



Report on Infringement of Geographical Indications in the EU

The European Union Intellectual Property Office has just released a report on Infringement of Geographical Indications.

In the European Union (EU), Geographical Indications (GIs) for wine, spirits, agricultural products and foodstuffs are protected as sui generis intellectual property rights that act as certification that certain products possess particular qualities, characteristics or reputation essentially attributable to their geographical origin and method of production.

The main objective of this study is to assess the size and value of the EU GI product market and the proportion of products in that market that infringe GIs protected in the EU. The impact of these infringements on EU consumers is also estimated, with a loss evaluated at up to €2.3 billion as consumers unjustly paid a price premium in the belief they bought a genuine product.

The full text of the report is available here.


Commission launches public consultation on the protection of geographical indications for non-agricultural products

The European Commission has launched a Green Paper consultation on a possible extension of geographical indication protection to non-agricultural products.

The Green Paper consists of two parts. The first part asks about the current means of protection provided at national and EU level and the potential economic, social and cultural benefits that could be achieved by improved GI protection in the EU. The second part includes more technical questions to seek the views of interested parties on possible options for EU-level GI protection for non-agricultural products.

All interested stakeholders – from consumers to producers, and distributors to local authorities – are invited to send their comments and suggestions by 28 October 2014.

To read the Green Paper, please click here; for more information on the public consultation, here.

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European Commission reaction to ICANN/NGPC decision on wine domain names

The European Commission welcomes the decision by ICANN's new generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) Program Committee (“NGPC”) to put on hold the applications for .wine and .vin and its encouragement to applicants to negotiate.

This postponement, even though only for two months, is important since it allows holders of geographical indications rights and the wine industry to conclude agreements on the matter with the applicants for the new generic Top-Level Domain names “.vin” and “.wine”.

The Commission believes that this postponement is the right one, as geographical indications for wine must be protected from domain name claims that put at risk the viability and integrity of this important sector.

For further information, please click here.

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Study on geographical indication protection for non-agricultural products

The European Commission commissioned a study on geographical indications (GIs), with the objective to gather information on protected and potentially protected non-agricultural GI products in the European Union and to determine whether or not a unitary system of protection for non-agricultural GI products at the EU level should be established.

The study concludes that in the EU “there is no harmonised approach when it comes to the legal instruments available for the protection of non agricultural GI products. The legal frameworks differ quite significantly in terms of scope, effect and cost of protection. Protection can be granted through consumer deception and unfair competition laws, trade mark laws, specific laws which protect individual non agricultural GI products and/ or sui generis GI systems.” Moreover, even though these legal frameworks provide a significant protection, the “requirements are so different from one country to the other that it is not easy for producers to use them, notably for those interested in securing protection outside of their country of origin.

To read all the conclusions of this study, please click here.

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