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EU moves to secure protected food and drink names in the UK

This article is powered by EU Food Law

The European Commission has published a position paper outlining how it wants to secure its protected food and drinks names prior to the UK leaving the bloc. About 3,300 products have protected names, including, in the UK, Dorset Blue cheese and West Country beef, and, in Italy, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and Prosciutto meats.

In a paper published today (September 7th), the Commission wants the UK to introduce a domestic law that secures all food and drink names that have been granted prior to the UK’s withdrawal  to provide for “their continued protection”. “Such protection should be comparable to that provided by Union law,”.

The current EU scheme places products into “Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)” and “Protected Geographical Indication (PGI)”, which apply to products produced, processed and/or prepared within a specific geographical area, and with features and characteristics attributable to that area.

A third category is “Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG)”, which is open to products that are traditional or have customary names, and have features that distinguish them from other similar products.

The proposal from the Commission for the UK to introduce its own legislation is deemed necessary because the country currently has no laws of its own on the protection of designations of origin and geographical indications as well as on other protected terms in relation to agricultural products.

The paper was published alongside three others related to Brexit - on customs, public procurement and use of data - and brings to 14 the number of position papers published by the Commission on Brexit. All four papers will be discussed at the forthcoming Council Working Party (Art 50).

Boris remarks

The publication of the position paper on protected food and drinks appears to add credence to the UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s remark last year when he was in discussions with Italy’s economic development minister over access to the single market post Brexit.

The Italian minister, Carlo Calenda, said Johnson had told him during a meeting that Italy would grant Britain access to the EU’s single market “because you don’t want to lose prosecco exports”.

Mr Calenda said: "He basically said, ‘I don’t want free movement of people but I want the single market’. I said, ‘no way’. He said, ‘you’ll sell less prosecco.’ I said, ‘OK, you’ll sell less fish and chips, but I’ll sell less prosecco to one country and you’ll sell less to 27 countries.’”

The UK government will likely welcome the publication of the position paper as it addresses forward-looking trade arrangements, which the EU has, until now, seemed to consider worthy for later discussions, once the past relations with the UK have been sorted out.

The mutual recognition of protected names between the two parties will also ensure some security for both UK and EU27 food producers over the coming years. Protected products sell for, on average, twice as much as similar products that are not protected and are a valuable part of a company’s marketing armoury.

Definitions

The Commission position paper covers  “Intellectual property right having unitary character within the Union”, which, when it comes to food and drink, refers to any of the following rights:

·        'protected geographical indication' or a 'protected designation of origin' registered in accordance with Regulation (EU) No 1151/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 November 2012 on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs;

·        a 'protected geographical indication' or a 'protected designation of origin' registered in accordance with Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 establishing a common organisation of the markets in agricultural products;

·        a 'geographical indication' registered in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 110/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 January 2008 on the definition, description, presentation, labelling and the protection of geographical indications of spirit drinks;

·        a 'geographical indication' registered in accordance with Regulation (EU) No 251/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2014 on the definition, description, presentation, labelling and the protection of geographical indications of aromatised wine products.

For the purpose of the paper, the Commission notes that 'traditional speciality guaranteed' registered in accordance with Regulation (EU) No 1151/2012 and 'traditional terms for wine' registered in accordance with Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013, collectively referred to as 'other protected terms in relation to agricultural products' “should be assimilated to intellectual property rights having unitary character within the Union and also be covered by the material scope of the paper”.

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