From Welsh lamb to Scottish whiskey to Stilton cheese: the continued protection of geographical designations of origin (GU) for British products is likely after Brexit. No Cause big problems. However, care should be taken in dealing with this issue in future trade negotiations.
The concept of the JV is intended to protect the names of some specific products in order to promote their unique properties, which may be associated with their geographic origin as well as the known anchors in the region.
In short: Only meat produced in the hills around the Italian city of Parma is later allowed to use the name thanks to the JV Parma ham worn away. And Champagne Can only be made if grapes from the French region of the same name are used.
Such products can be found in abundance on EU supermarket shelves: they have special labels for local food specialties, including PDO (protected designation of origin) and PGI (protected geographical indication). These product names are also included in the European Union system of intellectual property rights, which legally protects them “against counterfeiting and misuse”.
A recent study by the Commission, which collected economic data on each of the 3,207 GU-protected products in the European Union, found that products with such geographical indications represented a sales value of more than 74 billion euros.
65 British foods are currently registered as joint ventures in the EU system, including meat products such as Welsh Lamb and Gloucestershire Old Spots Pork, but also Stilton Cheese, Scottish Whiskey and Jersey Royal Potatoes. However, Brexit will partially change the situation, among many other things.
The JV issue is addressed in the section of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement dedicated to intellectual property. In particular, Article 54 states that all geographic signs that were already registered in the European Union by December 31, 2020 (the so-called “herds”) will be protected in the UK.
A spokesperson for the UK Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) told EURACTIV.com, “All product names will be preserved in the UK before the end of the transition period”.
British producers will still have access to the EU joint venture scheme and, like other producers in third countries, can apply for EU protection. However, new JVs entered into the EU Register after 1 January 2021 are protected only within the territory of the European Union and not necessarily even in individual third countries with which related contracts have been negotiated.
This means, among other things, that EU manufacturers must submit a related application to British authorities to obtain GU protection in the United Kingdom. Similarly, applicants for EU JVs who are related to UK products must first register their products for UK JVs to gain access to the EU system.
According to Ioth Silverman, an intellectual property expert with Freeth’s Law Firm, this is the only downside to current agreements. “This is purely a matter of process and is unlikely to cause any major problems,” she confidently told EURACTIV.com.
Meanwhile, the UK administered by DEFRA is setting up its joint venture system. “The new UK joint venture regulations will ensure that we continue to identify and protect authentic products and cuisines throughout the UK,” confirmed the DEFRA spokesperson.
For its part, the agency is actively promoting the use of the new UK joint venture logo on the products. It also occurs within the framework of pre-existing advertising measures for food and beverages, such as the “Food Great” campaign. A spokesman for DEFRA said that EU products, which are protected in the UK, are also eligible to use the new UK logo.
Special Regulation for Northern Ireland: European Union System Still Applies
The situation is somewhat different in Northern Ireland, where EU laws on geographical indication apply as a result of the Northern Ireland Protocol. This means that the protection of geographic signals of the European Union will extend to Northern Ireland, even if related products are registered after the end of the transition period. The protection of geographical signs also applies under international agreements of the European Union.
The reason for this exception is that some Irish joint venture products such as whiskey are produced in both Northern Ireland and Ireland.
“It is difficult to assess other scenarios at this time, but if different rules are negotiated and there is a deviation, it will give rise to a certain irregularity,” legal expert Silverman warned EURACTIV.com. She states: “Northern Ireland is part of the UK: if we run a wedge between the UK and EU JV regulations, we risk running such a wedge between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.”
When asked by EURACTIV.com, a Commission source said that it was not aware of any problems with the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol regarding geographic designations of EU origin.
Silverman confirms that with customs and trade facilitation, general contractors have always been regarded with potential points of contention in EU trade negotiations: “General contractors are an important point in trade negotiations.” He pointed to reports in which there was already disagreement on this point about the exact interpretation of the UK withdrawal agreement.
Her conclusion: The GU “is not a real stumbling block, but an issue that is always on the table. As far as I know, the UK wants to negotiate relaxed rules. It is clear that both the UK government and the EU are Will try to maximize the associated benefits. “
[Bearbeitet von Josie Le Blond]