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1st Quarter 2018

Chairman’s Message

Errico-Auricchio-pic

Steering Down the Global Road Ahead

Each year brings fresh opportunities and challenges when it comes to safeguarding common names. A glance at global economic trends and developments for 2018 gives a sense of the stretches and bumps in the road before us. In many respects, the news is good in terms of global economic health. The World Bank reported in January that the global economy has been out-performing most predictors; it expects global economic growth to increase up to 3.1 percent in 2018 after a much stronger-than-expected 2017, as the recovery in investment, manufacturing and trade continues. The report also describes robust global trade and favorable financing conditions.

On the other hand, Global Trade Magazine recognizes as one of its top global trends that the European Union is “churning out trade agreements”. As we know, the EU now routinely includes within these trade agreements overly restrictive demands for protecting geographical indications (GI) that step on the rights of producers that use common food and beverage names. CCFN anticipates that this year the EU will continue to actively forge agreements, and in so doing will expand its efforts to use GIs to draw restrictions around common names.

Meanwhile, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations are expected to continue for much of this year. Regional trade deals such as those pursued by Mercosur or the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) are moving forward, but it’s not yet clear what this will mean in terms of GI-related restrictions in practice. Already CCFN and its members have been working hard in these areas to safeguard common names. At the same time, the EU is preparing to join the Lisbon Agreement (see story below), which will likely create multilateral challenges in our work to assure that nations don’t trample on common names and terms included in a newly expanded Lisbon Agreement.

If I can expand on the “road” metaphor, let me say that CCFN has worked hard to develop a nimble four-wheel drive SUV to navigate these rocky twists and turns. That is, over the years we have built a global name and network for ourselves so that we can more easily spread the alarm and take action when common names are threatened. We have developed an effective approach to GIs in trade negotiations that has already served our members well in Japan, portions of Latin America and other areas. Our successes come thanks to you and your support, and the commitment by industries and officials around the world to draw a line with the EU on GI transgressions. So buckle up – We’re already well on the road to another eventful year in protecting our rights to use generic names!

Errico Auricchio
CCFN Chairman

 


CCFN Calls for U.S. to Reject the EU’s Flagrant Abuse of GIs and to Safeguard Generic Food Names

In testimony before the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) March 8, CCFN urged the U.S. government to intensify its efforts to repel attempts by the European Union (EU) to confiscate generic terms within major trading markets, as well as within the United States itself. CCFN’s testimony was presented as part of the USTR’s preparation of its annual Special 301 review of intellectual property rights protections among U.S. trading partners. Read More



Japan Rejects EU Attempts To Confiscate Many Generic Names

CCFN welcomed the Japanese government’s decision in December to assure the continued general use for many generic food terms as part of its trade agreement with the European Union (EU) – especially highly contested terms such as “parmesan” and “romano”, even as CCFN seeks further assurances on several common terms still at risk. Japan has assured continued common use for the generic cheese names brie, camembert, cheddar, edam, emmental, gouda, grana, mozzarella, parmesan, pecorino, provolone and romano; for the meats bologna, bratwurst and mortadella; and for varietal terms such as “kalamata” for olives and “valencia” for oranges. Read More

 


CCFN Engages Closely with China on GIs

CCFN Executive Director Jaime Castaneda traveled to China in January with the President and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council to meet with Chinese Ministry of Commerce officials on GI issues. Castaneda commended China on its efforts to balance GI protections with the preservation of common food terms, and highlighted specific areas of concern.  Read More


NAFTA, Mexico-EU and Mercosur-EU Trade Deals Still in Process

Three of the largest trade deals currently in the works – each with potential impact on geographical indications – are the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the EU’s negotiations with Mexico, and with the Mercosur bloc (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay). The deals all remain active, but with their outcomes uncertain. With Canada, the United States and Mexico having recently wrapped up their seventh round of negotiations on NAFTA, CCFN continues to urge that these talks yield a modernized agreement that addresses abusive non-tariff barrier tactics such as the use of GIs to impede the sale of common food names. CCFN has talked with key U.S. congressional members involved in the negotiations about the importance of the U.S. holding firm on matters concerning common food and beverage terms.  Read More

 


More EU Trade Deal Activity on the Horizon

EU-Chile: The two nations are currently working to “modernize” their existing agreement, including the addition of GI protections. The latest preliminary meeting to organize negotiations took place in February. The EU has presented a proposal on the GI section that provides for an opposition period, similar to the ones in the EU-Mexico and EU-Mercosur free trade agreements. Given the early stage of negotiations, the EU has not yet presented a specific list of GIs for consideration. Read More

 


Emmentaler Trademark Application Requires EU Rejection

CCFN has learned that a Swiss GI organization is seeking a trademark in the European Union for the term “emmental/emmentaler”. Emmental or emmentaler is a cheese originally made in Switzerland, but now produced in multiple other countries – including EU members Germany, France, Finland and Austria. Read More

 


Also…

  • Good Ruling on Parmesan in Guatemala – In response to CCFN filings, the Supreme Court issued a positive ruling to maintain the generic use of “parmesan”. CCFN has continued to coordinate with local industry in Guatemala on this issue and will work with them moving forward to ensure that we fully solidify this win in the Guatemalan marketplace.
  • EU Takes Steps to Join Lisbon Agreement – The European Union is taking steps to join the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) Lisbon Agreement as a means to obtain protection for GIs in multiple countries through a single registration. The Lisbon Agreement, which is administered by WIPO, currently has 28 contracting parties including 7 EU member states. Russia, China, India and 17 francophone African states have recently expressed interest in joining the agreement. In a “roadmap” posted for comment, the EU states that “The new Geneva Act is a potentially significant tool in the EU’s international strategy for the protection of GIs around the world in addition to the negotiation of bilateral and regional agreements and efforts to promote the protection of GIs in the WTO, especially if the Lisbon system can be extended to new members (such as ASEAN countries, India, China, Korea, Brazil or Turkey) or international organisations such as the African IP organisation OAPI…. EU accession to the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement is currently the only viable option for protecting EU GIs in a multilateral forum outside the EU.” See also this U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service newsletter article.
    CCFN has opposed the updated Lisbon Agreement because it lacks adequate safeguards for common name use and inappropriately expedites the process for registering GIs. Educational outreach to WIPO countries by CCFN over the past several years, including in presentations in China and Latin America last year, has highlighted these deficits in the treaty and underscored its problematic nature.

 

  • Industry Letter to USPTO Stresses Continued Vigilance on GI Issues – In February CCFN joined a group of major industry food and agricultural organizations in sending a letter to the new director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Andrei Iancu, to make him aware of the importance of GI issues and the need for maintaining a strong government policy team to address them as USPTO evaluates possible changes. CCFN was joined on the letter with the American Farm Bureau Federation, Grocery Manufacturers Association, International Dairy Foods Association, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Milk Producers Federation, North American Meat Institute, USA Rice, U.S. Dairy Export Council and the Wine Institute.

And finally…

A Chilling Victory Against the Champagne Lobby

On the eve of 2018, as Germans were poised to pop the cork on thousands of bottles of Champagne, the European Court of Justice ruled they could also continue to enjoy a bowl of “Champagner Sorbet” from Aldi’s supermarket. The Champagne ‘police’ – the Comite Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIPV) – sought an injunction against Aldi, suggesting it was abusing the good name and geographical indication of Champagne by attaching it to sorbet. But after five years of back and forth, the legal battle reached the EU’s top court, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which ruled in favor of Aldi. The deciding factor was that the sorbet does actually contain Champagne – 12% by volume.

“Use of the name ‘Champagner Sorbet’ does not take undue advantage (and therefore does not exploit the reputation) of the Protected Designation of Origin ‘Champagne’ if the product concerned has, as one of its essential characteristics, a taste that is primarily attributable to Champagne,” the ECJ said in its decision.

The ruling suggests that “Champagne” is not strictly a region and sparkling wine, but can also be a flavor and descriptor. And probably makes for a pretty tasty sorbet.

 


UnCommon Hero

(A profile of one of the heroes who protect and promote common food names)

Hisao Fukuda, COO and Secretary General, The Japanese Foodservice Association

One of the more recent CCFN supporters is the Japan Foodservice Association, which is Japan’s largest foodservice industry organization, with more than 800 companies and 65,000 outlets represented in its membership. The organization has one central mission: To support Japan’s foodservice industry in its pursuit to achieve healthy economic growth while fulfilling social responsibilities. Read more