Ministers have adopted a mandate for negotiations with the European Parliament (‘general approach’) on the proposed regulation on geographical indication (GI) protection for craft and industrial products.
Geographical indications establish intellectual property rights for specific products whose qualities are essentially linked to the area of production, such as Bohemian glass, Limoges porcelain or Solingen cutlery.
“This regulation will ensure the quality and authenticity of products sold in the EU. Whenever you buy Bohemian glass, you will be certain that it was produced in Bohemia and that it is not a fake or a replica. The new rules will guarantee that no one will gratuitously benefit from the high-quality work of the genuine producers of a wide range of craft and industrial products.”
Josef Síkela, Czech minister for industry and trade
Importance of GI rules
The EU currently has specific GI protection rules for wines, spirit drinks, foodstuffs and other agricultural products. Champagne and Prosciutto di Parma are well-known examples of agricultural GIs.
However, there is currently no EU-wide GI protection for craft and industrial goods. This regulation aims to establish directly applicable GI protection for craft and industrial products (such as jewellery, textiles, glass, porcelain, etc.) at EU level, complementing the existing EU protection for GIs in the agricultural domain.
GI protection for such products will lead to more innovation and investment in crafts by helping artisans and producers, particularly SMEs, to promote and protect their traditional know-how at EU level in compliance with EU competition rules. The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) will play an important role in implementing the new protection system, in particular as regards registration procedures for craft and industrial GIs.
In its mandate, the Council amends the scope originally proposed by the European Commission, to ensure alignment with the GI system for agricultural products. It does so by defining craft and industrial products and by covering products that fall outside the scope of the existing legislation.
The text also clarifies the registration procedures and lays down clearer rules on who can apply for GI protection, taking into account typical and traditional producer structures.
Other changes that the Council’s mandate proposes concern:
- a fair balance between GI protection and other rights, in particular trademarks, and the deletion of overly burdensome provisions on domain names
- a lighter control system for the verification of compliance and for monitoring the use of geographical indications in the market
- a balanced regime for fees that takes into account the need to foster the competitiveness of producers of craft and industrial products, which are often small or micro artisanal businesses
The general approach agreed today formalises the Council’s negotiating position. It provides the Council presidency with a mandate for negotiations with the European Parliament.
The regulation is one of the key proposals under the Intellectual Property Action Plan, which was presented by the European Commission in November 2020.
The absence of EU-level GI protection for craft and industrial products is not only an internal issue. In November 2019, the EU acceded to the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement on Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications (an international treaty of the World Intellectual Property Organization), which covers GIs for both agricultural and non–agricultural products. The proposal will enable the EU to meet its international obligations under this treaty and to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by it.