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European counterfeit geographical indications worth € 4.3 billion

Date: 09/22/2017

According to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), 9% of all the geographical indications of the products in the EU market have been falsified in the last 3 years. This represents 4.3 billion euro and has raised the alarm in many Member States of the Community.

The promotion of geographical indications has helped Community products in attracting new emerging markets which are looking for quality foods. But Europol warns that the number of products with counterfeit geographical indications false is increasing throughout the European Union (EU) and decision makers should not ignore the protection of intellectual property rights.

The European Commission succeeded in providing new export ways and since then the number of geographical indications for agricultural foods has increased. According to the latest Eurostat data, the value of annual exports to EU reached a new record of 130.7 billion euro last year.

China and the United States represent the main group of trading partners, but other markets in Asia, such as Japan, Vietnam and Korea have come up. In 2017, significant earnings have been recorded in Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia. Although this may seem a positive feature, the EU farmers believe it has not brought more money in their pockets.

Quality systems and trade

The exports from southern Europe, such as olive oil, wine and fresh vegetables, thanks to their high quality, have been popular in third countries.
Last year, Marc Vanheukelen, the EU Ambassador of the World Trade Organization (WTO), said that the demand of the emerging markets was increasingly higher “due to the growing population, particularly the middle-class, whose eating habits were changing.
He underlined that customer expectations are higher in terms of quality, safety and nutritional value of the products they eat and also the fact that “Europe is well positioned to satisfy such demand”.
The European Union has paid particular attention to the quality of products manufactured within its territory, establishing geographical indications to help protect and promote products with certain unique characteristics.
France, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Greece top the list of food products registered in EU quality systems. Their “protected” products vary from fresh meat, fruits and vegetables to oils and cheeses.
The EU quality systems are dealing with everything related to foods, wine, spirit drinks and aromatised wines, as well as to organic products. Currently there are 1 402 food products registered with geographical indications, while EU exports of products protected by geographical indications are worth almost 11.5 billion euro.
EU has recently signed a political agreement with Japan to accelerate trade until the end of the year. The Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. Phil Hogan, highlighted that EU negotiators succeeded in protecting more than 200 geographical indications.

Western Europe hit by the crisis of counterfeit products

France is one of the countries mostly affected by this phenomenon, mainly because wine has the highest price among protected product classes, being a luxury.
The value of counterfeit product market in France reached 1.6 billion euro, followed by Italy with 682 million euro, Germany (598 million euro), Spain (266 million euro) and Greece (235 million euro).

Situation in Romania

In our country there are approximately 100 products which could fall within the scope of the national and European quality systems for Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), Protected Geographical Indications (PGI) and Traditional Specialty Guaranteed (TSG).
In the first half of this year, the first working meetings were held, organized by the agricultural directorates of 40 counties, in view of implementing the “Traditional product promotion scheme” from the Chapter 'Agricultural and Rural Development Policy' of the government programme 2017-2020. The goal of this programme is the registration of 14 products for Romania, under European quality systems, by 2020.
To this day, four food products have been registered as geographical indications: Magiun de prune Topoloveni / Topoloveni plum jam (PGI), Salam de Sibiu / Sibiu salami (PGI), Novac afumat din Ţara Bârsei / smoked bighead carp (PGI), Telemea de Ibăneşti / Ibanesti cheese (PDO).
“An interesting issue about geographical indications refers to the case where a trademark partially or fully describes the name of a region for which a certain products has obtained a geographical indication. For example, a Swiss chocolate can have a geographical indication for the Alps region because the milk it contains is only produced in that region. Therefore, that type of chocolate which may even contain the root «alpine» in its designation can only be manufactured with milk produced in that region. If a cereal manufacturer considers to also name his trademark «alpine», the owners of the chocolate trademark cannot apply for the annulment of the cereal trademark because it is understood that cereals cannot «grow» in the Alps, meaning that they do not contain any ingredient specific to that area. Moreover, the holder of the geographical indication cannot block the registration of other trademarks (also used for chocolate), if they include the term «Alps» in their designations”, said Paul Cosmovici, Managing Partner, Cosmovici Intellectual Property.


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