23 August 2019

Protecting stinky cheese and artisanal ham? Geographical Indications

Another day in what one undergrad intellectual property student dubs the stinky foreign cheese wars!

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has released information regarding 'Public objections procedure concerning terms proposed by the European Union for protection as geographical indications in Australia'.

DFAT states
In June 2018 the Australian Government launched negotiations for a comprehensive and ambitious Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the European Union (EU), which will provide increased commercial opportunities for Australian exporters. As a bloc, the EU is Australia's second largest trading partner and largest two-way investment partner. The Government will be tireless in pursuing Australia's interests in this FTA, but we will only achieve the best outcome for Australia if we also consider the EU's interests.
Consistent with its approach toward other FTA partners, the EU has identified the protection of geographical indications (GIs) as one of its key objectives in the negotiations.
A GI is essentially a name used on a product that has a specific geographical origin, and possesses qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. 'Champagne' is a well-known example of a GI. Once a GI is protected, the name may not be used except by producers who meet the rules protecting the GI.
In order to move to the essential market access stage of the negotiations, Australia is publishing the list of product names the EU wants Australia to protect as GIs.
The Government has made no commitment to protect EU GIs. The Government has, however, committed to engage with the EU on its GIs interests as part of the FTA negotiations. In doing so, the Australian Government has agreed to publish the EU list of GIs for public objection.
The Government will continue to consult closely with stakeholders on the issue of GIs. The public objections process is your opportunity to advise the Government formally of any concerns you may have regarding the protection of individual EU GI names.
Decisions on EU GIs that will be protected by Australia will be taken by the Government at a later point in the FTA negotiations. Any commitments on GIs in the FTA will depend on the overall outcomes the EU is prepared to offer Australia, including with regard to market access.
 Further, DFAT states
What GI names are the EU seeking to protect?
The EU has asked Australia to protect 236 spirit names and 172 agricultural and other foodstuff names as GIs in Australia. The names relate to a range of sectors including, dairy, meat, smallgoods, horticulture, confectionery, oils, beer and spirits.
Who should lodge an objection?
You should make an objection if you think protection of a specific EU GI name will adversely affect your interests (noting protection would enable EU GI producers to prevent use of the relevant name by others). You can make objections in relation to any EU GI name or part of a name, as well as any translation, transliteration or transcription of a name.
On what basis can you object to an EU GI name?
You should base your objections on at least one of the following grounds:

  • the name is used in Australia as the common name for the relevant good; 

  • the name is used in Australia as the name of a plant variety or an animal breed; 

  • the name is identical to, or likely to cause confusion with, a trade mark or GI that is registered or the subject of a pending application in Australia; 

  • the name is identical to, or likely to cause confusion with, an unregistered trade mark or GI that has acquired rights through use in Australia; or 

  • the name contains or consists of scandalous matter.