CCFN Input Shapes International Trademark Association Comments on the EU’s Proposed System for Non-Agricultural Geographical Indications (GIs)

December 8th, 2021

The International Trademark Association (INTA) utilized ample input from CCFN in its comments to the European Commission on their consideration of non-agricultural geographical indications (GIs). CCFN regularly seized GI-related opportunities for comment offered by the EU and other countries in order to consistently outline the core elements of well-designed GI systems.

CCFN submitted its input to INTA earlier this year as part of its active work on the INTA GI Committee. Among the points CCFN emphasized were three key elements:

  1. GI protections must be coupled with a heightened level of clarity and transparency in relation to the process and scope of GI registration as well as procedural safeguards and a balancing of the public’s interests.
  2. There must be improved clarity and limits in relation to the objectives and scope of GI protection in the EU. This would include clear exclusions from the scope of protection for GIs to avoid restricting common terms.
  3. There is a need for a straight-forward, transparent, and fair GI application and examination process, where the evidentiary and financial burdens are distributed fairly between interested parties.

In INTA’s comments to the European Commission, it advocated for ensuring that the process for registering non-agricultural GIs is clear and constitutes effective governance. INTA’s recommendations for any regulation of GIs include the importance of providing effective and transparent mechanisms for addressing:

  1. Applications for GIs, applications for amendments, and applications for cancellation; and
  2. Opposition, cancellation, and notification procedures that recognize pre-existing trademark rights with which GIs might conflict or cause confusion.

INTA’s exhortation to the EU echoed CCFN’s key themes of the risk that excessive protection poses to generic users: “INTA notes that an additional EU protection regime for non-agricultural GIs has the potential to create many conflicts between newly created non-agricultural GIs and the numerous pre-existing trademark rights protected in the Single Market and pre-existing generic terms unless careful safeguards are introduced. Such safeguards should aim to ensure a fair and transparent system, with maximum legal certainty on the scope of protection of the newly created GIs for a minimum disruption of pre-existing rights. An excessive scope of protection could unduly prejudice the existing rights of trademark holders and limit the freedom to use generic terms. The GI protection regime in the European Union needs to be fair and effective.”