Common Names Get Airtime in WIPO’s Global GI Symposium

December 8th, 2021

In September, CCFN’s Senior Director, Shawna Morris, spoke to over 300 participants of the WIPO’s bi-annual symposium on GIs about how GIs are impacting trade around the world. Her remarks called for respecting the rights of producers and consumers to use common food names, and specifically targeted actions by the EU, which restrict those rights. Highlighting that the misuse of GIs stamps out competition to the detriment of local industries, trading partners, and consumers, Morris called for stronger protections to address negative impacts.

She also highlighted avenues for common ground to register legitimate GIs and protect the rights of common name users. These include:

  1. Requiring all GIs to submit to a thorough, local application process in each country;
  2. Refusing to register GIs that are part of the public domain;
  3. Having a local application process in each country that is consistent, methodical, transparent, and free from political and economic influence.

Two other speakers of note also participated in the symposium:

Hazel V J Moir, from the Australian National Universities’ Centre for European Studies, spoke on a panel regarding the Socio-Economic Implications of GIs. Dr. Moir work includes providing an independent analysis of the empirical evidence on the impact of GIs and policies related to trade treaties and GIs. During her presentation, Dr. Moir made the observation that, for the most part, there is not conclusive evidence that GIs are having a significant impact on socio-economic conditions (e.g., market size, net producer prosperity, regional prosperity). The primary reason for this is simply that the data is not being collected by the EU or others to allow for a rigorous and robust analysis of this issue.

In addition, Mr. John D. Rodriguez, from the USPTO’s Office of Policy and International Affairs (OPIA) also addressed the Symposium, touching on the challenges with respect to Geographical Indications and the Internet Domain Name System. Of particular concern to GI advocates is that the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) of the Internet Cooperation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) offers a protection mechanism against “bad faith” registrations of trademarks as domain names, but the UDRP is not applicable to sui generis geographical indications. Mr. Rodriguez focused on the various tools currently available to address disputes in domain names and why further expansion is not warranted. He pointed out that it is premature to address the issues related to GI names as, unlike trademarks, there is not “across the board” agreement on what should be a GI, what rights GIs have, how they should be protected in their various forms and territories, and what would be considered “bad faith” (e.g., common name use).