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ALERT Newsletter

The Consortium distributes a quarterly newsletter to share the latest information about the work we are doing to defend common food and wine terms. Keep up to speed on current threats and new successes by joining our email list.

Chairman’s Column

Errico Auricchio

A Successful Year Brings Tidings of Joy

For many, 2020 has been a difficult year with new and unprecedented challenges. While these challenges have required dedication and ingenuity to navigate, we’ve pressed forward knowing that we’re fighting on behalf of farmers, manufacturers and exporters that deserve a fair chance to label their products with common food and wine terms.

CCFN is the only organization fully dedicated to this cause. Your faith in our mission and continued support has given CCFN the resources to lead the way, coordinating among industry stakeholders and leveraging government support to stand up to the EU’s destructive GI agenda. We are grateful to have an incredible list of accomplishments to share from the past year:

 

  • More than 170 Members of Congress signed letters requesting that the U.S. government enhance protections for common food and wine terms.
  • The U.S. Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) issued a ruling declaring that gruyere is a generic style of cheese. While the Swiss have appealed this decision, CCFN has already filed a counterstatement to the appeal and will be staunchly defending the action in order to keep “gruyere” generic in the U.S.
  • USPTO issued new guidance that will help ensure that generic terms are given adequate consideration and protection.
  • The U.S. completed the Phase One trade agreement with China, which creates new safeguards protecting market access for products labeled with common terms.
  • We had several wins in our daily pushback on threats to common terms, including a win for asiago and gorgonzola cheeses in Australia.
  • We sought to protect common terms under the framework of the EU-MERCOSUR trade agreement, which is currently being negotiated. As a result of this work, several companies were recognized in Argentina and Brazil as previous users of some common food terms.

The items listed above do not even begin to capture the work that CCFN is advancing on a day-to-day basis or the work that lies ahead as we begin to educate new members of Congress and a new administration about the threats to common food terms. We stand together and ready to fight back against any attempt to confiscate these terms.

Stay healthy and have a very joyous holiday season.

Errico Auricchio
CCFN Chairman
President and Founder, BelGioioso Cheese

Defending Common Terms Continues to Lead Congressional Agenda

“Congress has spoken loudly; it is time for stronger action by the U.S. government.”

That was the quote from Jaime Castaneda, Executive Director of the Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN), following the release of a bipartisan letter sent by 111 members of the U.S. Congress urging stronger protections for American-made food and wine exports using common terms.

The letter asks the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to make safeguarding common food and wine terms a core policy objective in all current and future trade negotiations. The effort was led by Reps. Jim Costa (D-CA), Jodey Arrington (R-TX), Angie Craig (D-MN), Dusty Johnson (R-SD), Ron Kind (D-WI), Mike Gallagher (RWI), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and Mike Kelly (R-PA). Read more.


UnCommon Heroes: Congress Stands Up for American Food Producers

Europe has zero justification for blocking exports labeled with common terms, such as California wines labeled with chateau, Wisconsin-made parmesan cheeses or Made-In-America bologna. Yet, the EU bans U.S. food and wine exports to its own market and is actively seeking to block U.S. exports to our trading partners, as well.

Last month, more than 110 members of Congress said: Enough is enough.
Congressmen Jim Costa (D-CA) and Jodey Arrington (R-TX) are two of the several champions for food and farm exports that led a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Read more.


It’s Elemental: Emmental is Generic

The European Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) has ruled against an appeal from Emmentaler Switzerland after its request to trademark the term “emmental” was previously denied. EUIPO confirmed that the term is generic and referred often to the arguments presented by CCFN and other opponents of the Swiss application. The Swiss group filed its initial request in October 2017 for protection as a collective trademark for emmentaler. CCFN filed a submission registering opposition to restricting the name and insisting on the need to preserve the generic status of the term, which is also a standard under the international Codex Alimentarius.

The Swiss may appeal this decision to the European General Court, but CCFN will continue working to defend the rights of users of this common term.


New Resources to Defend Common Names

While we know very well the dangers that lie ahead if the European Union (EU) is allowed to continue their destructive campaign on GIs unchecked, one of the key components of our efforts over the past year has been making sure that both the public and policymakers hear this message loud and clear.

To break down what can seem like a complicated issue, we teamed up with USDEC and NMPF – both CCFN member associations – to create a package of social media-friendly materials on the issue of common terms with a specific focus on U.S. cheeses. This includes a brief video, a one-page fact sheet and multiple social media graphics. Please click on the images below to expand. All of these items are free for you to download and share.

We hope you find these tools useful to increase public awareness of this critical trade issue as we continue our work behind-the-scenes to ensure that exports with common terms are not blocked by the EU.

Heard on Hoard’s: Speak Up in Defense of Common Terms

In October, CCFN Executive Director Jaime Castaneda joined Hoard’s Dairyman for a webinar where he broke down what exactly is a geographical indication (GI) and the mission of CCFN. Castaneda was also joined by Jeff Schwager, CEO of Sartori Cheese (a CCFN member), and Andy Novakovic, an Agricultural Economist at Cornell University.

Fighting back against the misuse of GIs is a key issue for dairy producers in particular because specialty cheeses are one of the fastest growing dairy markets around the world and the ability of U.S. producers to continue to use common terms – such as feta, parmesan or gruyere – is in jeopardy. Read more.


U.S. Government Awards Trademarks for Valid GIs

CCFN has long advocated for policies at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that protect goods labeled with common terms and truly distinctive products alike. That’s why we were gratified to see USPTO manage a fair and just process when it approved trademarks for the GIs Mortadella Bologna and Mozzarella Di Bufala Campana, and communicated our appreciation for that well-balanced approach to USPTO.

We hope that other GI applicants will use these applications as a model for future submissions. It is possible to fairly protect valid GIs while allowing free use of the common terms derived from those GIs! Read more.


CCFN Submits Comments In China, Australia and the EU

CCFN recently submitted comments on several important markets around the globe. In China, CCFN submitted comments on the proposed Guide on Determining Generic Names in the Protection of Geographical Indications (GIs). In Australia, CCFN submitted comments in response to the possibility that a new GI system may be implemented as part of the framework of the negotiations of the Australia – EU FTA. Lastly, in the EU, CCFN took an opportunity to utilize our comments on the EU’s quality schemes to comment on the key problem areas that remain unaddressed in regard to GIs. Read more.


Forging a Balanced Approach to GI Protections

COVID-19 restrictions meant that CCFN couldn’t make the trip in person to Geneva for the Assemblies of the Member States of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) 61st series of meetings in September. Instead, we participated virtually, delivering an oral statement and submitting comments for the record reaffirming our commitment to working alongside WIPO to address unbalanced approaches to GI policies in markets around the world. These comments echoed some of the issues raised in a letter we sent to Daren Tang that month, welcoming him as the new WIPO Director General, and expressing our interest to working together on these complex but critical issues.

CCFN’s comments also flagged challenges in the implementation of the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement on Appellations of Origin (AOs) and Geographical Indications (GIs) of 2015, which took effect in February 2020. Read more.


Other GI News from Around the World…

Great Scott! United Kingdom (UK) Unveils New GI Scheme

The transition deadline for the UK’s departure from the EU is rapidly approaching and beginning January 2021, the UK will leave the EU single market and customs union. In preparation, the UK has unveiled their own GI scheme to put the stamp of approval on authentic British goods. Under the new scheme, all existing UK products currently registered as a GI with the EU will remain protected. While we raise a heartfelt cheers to protecting valid GIs and lowering trade barriers, we hope that the UK will chart its own path forward on GIs to embrace fair competition.

Farmers Down Under Wary of EU GI Mandates

Australian farmers are expressing concern that ongoing trade negotiations with the UK will have disastrous outcomes as the EU imposes its GI regulations on Australian goods. “A lot of businesses have built their brands around these names and [there] is common acceptance of them,” a representative of the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) said. The NFF used the example of feta, saying that people consider feta a style of cheese and do not believe that all feta is produced in Greece. “The GIs that they’re putting forward right now would bar any use of the word [feta]… and you would probably have to call it something like continental-style white cheese.” CCFN has worked with member Dairy Australia to push back against the EU’s onerous GI demands in the ongoing EU-Australia FTA negotiations, as the consequences could be severe. Dairy Australia has previously estimated that local products with estimated annual aggregate sales of over $650 million are at some commercial risk if dairy GIs are built into any agreement with the EU.

Pakistan says Bah Humbug to Basmati GI

India is seeking GI protection for its basmati rice in the EU, claiming that the high-quality of India’s basmati rice is linked to where its grown. While India grows, and exports, a lot of the grain, Pakistan also controls approximately 35% of global basmati rice exports. Asia Times notes that if India’s GI request is granted, it “could hinder Pakistan’s competing exports while allowing India to fetch higher prices for its grains.” While this would not only be devastating for Pakistan’s agrarian economy, one expert noted that it could inspire competitors to try and secure GI protections for their basmati rice in other markets. Needless to say, GI protections are not intended to be wielded as trade weapons and this once again demonstrates the danger of misusing GIs to create trade monopolies.

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