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Chairman’s Column

Errico Auricchio

Our Good Work Continues in the Face of New Challenges

The COVID-19 virus has brought new challenges to the global food and agricultural market. One challenge that is not new: efforts to restrict your right to use common food names. In fact, the European Commission recently released a report calling their illegitimate geographical indications (GI) scheme a “European treasure” and citing its value at nearly €75 billion – no wonder Europe will go to such lengths to destroy fair competition!

We have remained steadfast in our efforts to defend common food name products. CCFN recently helped secure the publication of a new U.S. Patent and Trademark Office examination guide that will help ensure that generic terms are given adequate consideration and protection. Trademark applications were recently filed for “gorgonzola” in the United Arab Emirates and “asiago” in Malaysia and CCFN has already committed to opposing both attempts to infringe on common name rights. This is in addition to all of the other important work that continues on multiple fronts, as outlined in this quarter’s newsletter.

But of course, none of this would be possible without your continued support, even during this time of great adversity. Thank you for your ongoing efforts alongside CCFN to ensure that farmers, manufacturers, exporters and consumers around the world can continue to produce, make, sell and find comfort in the foods we all love and enjoy.

Errico Auricchio
CCFN Chairman
President and Founder, BelGioioso Cheese

CCFN Helps Secure Welcome Improvements to How USPTO Reviews GI-Related Applications

Last month, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) issued new guidance on how the USPTO examiners should consider generic terms as it reviews new trademark applications. The improvements incorporated into USPTO’s new examination guidance significantly clarify and improve review procedures for certain trademarks related to generic cheese or meat names, creating a more consistent process that will protect the interests of U.S. manufacturers, farmers and consumers.

CCFN joined with the U.S. Dairy Export Council, National Milk Producers Federation, North American Meat Institute, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and American Farm Bureau Federation to issue a joint statement touting this development that will bolster protections for common food names.

Read more

CCFN Provides GI Framework for U.S.-UK Trade Negotiations

The U.S. and United Kingdom (UK) recently reaffirmed their commitment to negotiating

a free trade agreement (FTA). A U.S.-UK FTA could present a new path forward for the misbalanced trade relationship between the U.S. and the UK, one of the world’s top cheese importers. Ensuring that the UK uses its exit from the EU as an opportunity to move beyond the EU’s complex and unfair trade policies on geographical indications (GIs) is a critical element to that result, however.

CCFN has been actively monitoring all trade developments across the Atlantic and has worked with U.S. dairy industry partners to repeatedly take this message to UK negotiators directly. CCFN has developed a set of detailed policy recommendations outlining how to best tackle the issue of GIs and common food names and has provided that language to U.S. trade negotiators to help guide negotiations towards a successful deal.

Read more

CCFN Champions Major Wins in Australia

The hard work and dedication of CCFN secured two major wins in Australia for makers of asiago and gorgonzola cheeses, as the Australian registrar of trademarks ruled against Italian attempts to trademark these common cheese names. CCFN had invested significant effort since 2018 to rebut claims from the Consorzio per la Tutela del Formaggio Asiago and the Consorzio per la Tutela del Formaggio Gorgonzola that sought to monopolize use of these two widely used terms. This is an extremely positive development after years of staunch advocacy by CCFN on behalf of users of the common names asiago and gorgonzola.

UnCommon Hero: Australia’s Intellectual Property Office

Too many other countries have failed to take a similarly principled path as Australia, instead bowing to pressure from the EU to monopolize common names and unduly limit trade. So, for its heroic efforts to defend common names, Australia’s Intellectual Property Office is CCFN’s featured UnCommon Hero this quarter.

U.S. Government Denounces EU Abuse of GI Protections in Special 301 Report

The U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) annual Special 301 Report on global intellectual property protection and enforcement included a (dis)honorable mention of the European Union’s (EU) ongoing abuse of geographical indications (GIs) protections to prevent the trade of common name products.

The Special 301 Report adds to the growing U.S. attention surrounding this critical issue and the ramifications of weaponizing GI protections as trade barriers. CCFN will continue to build upon the extensive groundwork already completed with USTR to secure even stronger protections for common names in future trade negotiations.

CCFN Files Comments with USTR on Kenya

CCFN is urging the U.S. government to take full advantage of the opportunity presented by upcoming trade negotiations with Kenya to build upon the advances made in USMCA, contain the EU’s aggressive misuse of geographical indications (GIs) to erect market access barriers and establish a precedent in sub-Saharan African regarding safeguards for the free use of common foods names.


China Working to Fulfill Phase One Commitments with CCFN Guidance

In its Phase One deal with the U.S., China made critical commitments to lay out indicators of generic status and mandate greater clarity regarding the scope of protection for multi-term geographical indications (GIs). CCFN recently submitted comments to the Chinese government to help ensure it fulfills these commitments by advising on the development of its Guide on Determining Generic Names in the Protection of Geographical Indications. Read more

On the Record at WIPO General Assembly

Frequent readers of CCFN alerts know that CCFN was granted observer status by the United Nations World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in October 2019. While the global COVID-19 pandemic and health safety measures moved the General Assembly meeting that would normally be held in May to a written-only exercise, CCFN still took advantage of this new observer status to submit a statement for the record. Read more

CCFN Expands Efforts on Capitol Hill

CCFN has elevated the issue of common food names from a fairly unknown policy consideration to an achievement that has recently been touted by lawmakers in several U.S. trade deals. This is a testament to the incredible work that CCFN has already done, but it’s now time to build upon this foundation and ensure these provisions become a permanent fixture of U.S. trade policy. Read more

Other GI News From Around the World…

In Hot Water, Japanese Tea Producers Withdraw GI Registration
Japan recently saw the first withdrawal of a registration after the Nishio Tea Cooperative Association canceled its registration for Nishio Matcha, a green tea powder. According to news reports, the traditional cultivation methods required by the GI registration were costly and made it difficult for the producers in the Nishio Tea Cooperative Association to maintain marketshare.

Vending Machine Dispenses Prosecco, Italian Outrage
An Italian Member of the European Parliament has sent a letter to the European Commission seeking to ban a promotional “Automated Prosecco Machine” in London, citing the vending machine to be in breach of the European Union’s strict GI laws because the bubbly in question was not served in a glass bottle. MEP Mara Bizzotto wrote that the vending machine was “yet another scam by a British company to the detriment of Prosecco PDO in the United Kingdom” and that “the improper use of the Prosecco name to sell wine on tap is tantamount to fraud against consumers.” The European Commissioner on Agriculture has directed the United Kingdom to stop this unlawful use of a GI, once again proving that the EU’s aggressive GI agenda is no reason to pop the prosecco.

It’s the Pits: Kalamata Olive Growers Seek to Restrict PDO

According to trade publication Olive Oil Times, Greek Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Food, Fotini Arampatzi, recently “stirred up controversy…when she suggested restricting the use of the Kalamata Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) solely for olives grown in the region of Messenia, on the southwestern tip of the Peloponnese peninsula.” A 2018 Greek law expanded the PDO designation to olives grown anywhere in Greece and helped expand Greek table olive exports to more than $223 million. Messenia olive growers are appealing this law, even though a Greek table olive association points to the fact that 97 percent of the Kalamata olives grown in Greece are produced outside of the Messenia region. The Greek supreme court is expected to hear the case this Spring. The growing “creep” of a GI region from a highly specialized one to an entire country with varied terroir certainly raises questions about the unique basis of the GI itself.

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