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4th Quarter 2017

Chairman’s Message

Errico-Auricchio-pic

Corporate Identity Theft

One of the biggest U.S. news stories of 2017 was the shocking breach at Equifax, one of the three major U.S. credit reporting agencies, which affected 143 million consumers. This is identity theft, when unscrupulous perpetrators steal personal information such as your full name or social security number, in order to commit fraud and drain away cash based on the credit you’ve built up over the years.

It’s not too great a leap to consider our issue a kind of identity theft. Because, let’s face it, someone is trying to steal the name of my product, and benefit from my “credit” – that is, the market I helped build for that product. Sure, the efforts by the EU and some organizations to prevent me from using a common name like “asiago” is not technically illegal, but I would point out that, 1) the common name “asiago” is integral to my company’s identity and has been for decades; and 2) there are concerted, brazen efforts underway to take that away from my company and others – and in fact to take it away from millions of asiago-loving consumers.

In “stealing” these identities, the EU is throwing existing rules and regulations to the side. This is especially true now that the EU has ignored the Codex Cheese Standards that it helped forge and approve just 10 years ago. In October, the EU allowed Denmark to register a GI for “danbo”, a name that has an international Codex standard (see the story below). This takes the EU’s abuse of GIs to a new low, and should not be tolerated. If Codex Standards are now meaningless to the Europeans, it opens the door for such common names as “mozzarella” and “cheddar” to be stolen, as well; a pending “havarti” GI is expected to move soon.

As Phillip Turner of Fonterra in New Zealand told a reporter recently, “We would like to stop the creep of this European campaign and see accepted rules in place… We think [this] is a bit out of control.”

This “creep” is only accelerating as the EU seeks ownership of generic names within China, Mexico and Japan in trade agreements, as well as the quickly moving Mercosur-EU Free Trade Agreement (see below), not to mention an aggressive play for full rights to “gorgonzola” in Canada. Yes, let’s call it what it is: brazen and unscrupulous identity theft, perpetrated for unfair economic gain.

We are calling the EU out on these transgressions, and defending existing rules and regulations. We’re having a positive impact in key places while waging active battles in others. There is a right way forward, and CCFN will continue to fight for it!

Errico Auricchio
CCFN Chairman

 


danbo

EU Turns Its Back on Codex Cheese Standards by Approving GI for Generic Name

The European Union (EU) in October tossed overboard its commitment to international standards by approving a new GI that grants Denmark sole use of a common cheese name: “danbo”. Unlike other GI registrations, “danbo” already holds the status of a generic term according to Codex Alimentarius, one of the leading international standards-setting bodies. Moreover, both the EU as a whole and Denmark individually participated in and approved the process to preserve the inclusion of “danbo” in the Codex cheese standards, a process that was finalized just a decade ago, in 2007. Read More

 


mexico and japan

CCFN Urges Mexico and Japan to Reject EU Attempts to Confiscate Generic Food and Wine Names

In two separate, extensive filings, CCFN in October provided comments to the governments of Japan and Mexico concerning each nation’s pending agreements with the EU on lists of GIs to be granted protection as part of trade negotiations. CCFN insisted that Mexico and Japan protect the interests of its consumers and producers, and maintain a competitive marketplace, by striking several generic names from the GI lists. CCFN also pursued clarification on how some terms will be protected within the EU’s agreement with the two nations, in order to safeguard the food’s common name. Read More


Pan American Dairy Federation Issues Resolution Condemning EU’s Aggressive GI Practices

CCFN worked with the Pan American Dairy Federation (FEPALE) last week to safeguard the interests of common food name users across the Latin American region. Those efforts resulted in a strong resolution rejecting the EU’s aggressive stance regarding the treatment of geographical indications (GIs), a topic of increasing relevance across major Latin American markets as the EU negotiates GIs with Mexico and the Mercosur bloc of countries while preparing to launch talks with Chile in the near future. (See related stories this issue on Mexico and Mercosur.)

The resolution, which was issued during FEPALE’s General Assembly last week in Cuba, addressed current, past and future negotiations with the EU and called for no new GI restrictions on the use of commonly used terms of importance to any country in the hemisphere. Representatives from more than a dozen Latin American countries attended the FEPALE meeting, including representatives from multiple CCFN member organizations.

“The EU’s GI scheme significantly threatens the sale of products using common names, at great harm to local producers and their trading partners around the world,” said CCFN Executive Director Jaime Castaneda, who attended the meeting to work closely with FEPALE’s members on this and other issues of mutual interest. “We are very pleased that FEPALE recognized the danger and took a strong stand on this important issue.”

Castaneda noted that some Latin American nations have led the way in standing up against the EU and in support of its local producers. One example is Guatemala, which last week again rejected EU attempts to claim sole use of the common name “parmesan”, despite repeated efforts by the EU to restrict this term in Guatemala.


capitol

CCFN Briefs U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Staff on Threats to Global Trade of Common Name Products

Representatives from CCFN and U.S. wine, food and manufacturing industry associations, as well as from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), briefed staff of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in September on geographical indications (GIs), and the imminent threat if Mexico, Japan and China allow the European Union (EU) to confiscate generic terms as part of their current trade negotiations. The briefing was co-hosted by the offices of the committee’s Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Read More

 


romano

USPTO Rejects Italian Application for U.S. Trademark on “Romano”

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has rejected an application by Italy’s Pecorino Romano Consortium (Consorzio Per La Tutela Del Formaggio Pecorino Romano Consortium Italy) to trademark the name “Pecorino Romano” in a way that would have impacted use of the common term “romano”. CCFN had been concerned that if the application were accepted as initially applied for, both the terms “pecorino” and “romano” would be at risk for generic use within the United States. Read More

 


Bertinelli

Italian Cheesemakers Continue To Target U.S. Market and Marketing Practices

In a presentation this fall at an Italian food convention, the president of the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium said that the United States is the number one export market for Parmigiano Reggiano, and that the Consortium will continue to fight against the use of the generic term “parmesan” and so-called “Italian-sounding” or “Italian-looking” marketing within the United States in an effort to reduce competition and increase sales of the Italian cheese. Nicola Bertinelli said that “clearer and more transparent regulations” in the U.S. would allow the Consortium to increase the size of its market in the U.S. by more than 50 million Euros. Read More

 


Also…

  • Mercosur flagsMercosur Nations Publish EU-GI Lists: CCFN is working to defend common names in Mercosur nations (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay) as the EU rapidly moves to approve GI lists of names for protection as part of the Mercosur-EU trade talks, which have been proceeding for several months. Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay published GI lists in November with just 30 days for opposition filings; CCFN filed comments in the first half of December. Of the roughly 350 terms on the list, CCFN focused on 24 at-risk generic names: asiago, black forest ham, bologna, brie, camembert, chorizo, edam, emmental, feta, fontina, gorgonzola, gouda, grana, gruyere, mortadella, mozzarella, parmesan, pecorino, pancetta, prosciutto, provolone, romano, salamie/salamini and manchego. CCFN also submitted a letter supporting the opposition filing of the Wine Institute concerning such common wine terms as “sherry” and “chianti”.   “We are working hard to keep these key markets in South America open for common name products,” said CCFN Executive Director Jaime Castaneda. Read the CCFN press release here.

 

  • Sonny PerdueInforming U.S. Visit to EU – CCFN sent a letter in October to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in advance of his visit with the European Commission, encouraging him to stress the position that the United States: 1) will reject the EU’s attempts to use GIs as a non-tariff barrier to trade; 2) stands firm with its trading partners that any new or renegotiated free trade agreements with the EU must preserve common food and beverage names; and 3) will reject any attempt by the EU to erect competition-distorting GI policies within the United States.

 

  • gorgonzolaCanadian Battle on Gorgonzola – The Italian Gorgonzola Consortium has filed an application for a trademark for sole use of “gorgonzola”. If granted, the application would negate the grandfathering provisions in the Canada-EU Trade Agreement that allow for existing manufacturers of gorgonzola to continue using its name in Canada. CCFN worked with several CCFN members, a Canadian gorgonzola producer and the Dairy Processor Association of Canada (DPAC) to challenge the application and fight restrictions on the use of the term. Oppositions were filed October 31 with Canada’s patent and trademark office.

 

  • U.S. Maintains Voting Status in WIPO – The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports that the United States has paid most of its overdue dues to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in order to preserve its voting rights and in recognition of the steps the United Nations agency has taken to deal with past irregularities and whistle blower issues. CCFN signed on to a trade group appeal to the U.S. State Department this summer requesting the United States maintain its voting status. CCFN and others believe that U.S. representation in WIPO is critical in the efforts to promote fair GI policies and protect common food names worldwide.

 

  • CCFN Participates in U.S. Workshop in the Philippines – The U.S. Food and Agriculture Service’s (FAS) Manila division joined with the Philippine Intellectual Property Office in September to host a one-day workshop on common food names and GIs. The workshop was designed to inform officials in that nation as they work to develop GI laws and regulations. The audience included Philippine government officials, industry representatives and congressional staff. A speaker from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office demonstrated how a sound trademark system balances branding goals with safeguards for common food names. CCFN was invited to speak at the event to provide the industry perspective on the importance of preserving common food names in order to facilitate trade, support the development of sales opportunities for local businesses, and avoid consumer confusion. An FAS summary of the event can be found here.

 

  • CCFN Meets with Chinese Officials – CCFN Executive Director Jaime Castaneda traveled to China in November to meet with China’s Trademark Office, as well as the Chinese Commerce Department, which is managing current trade negotiations with the EU. Castaneda took the opportunity to emphasize key points in the objections CCFN filed with the Chinese government in August regarding specific common cheese, meat and wine names and terms that the EU is seeking to confiscate as part of a bilateral agreement with China. Castaneda also took the opportunity to visit with local law firms that CCFN works with in legal cases and the opposition filings.

And this…

greek yogurtStrained Relations Over Greek Yoghurt – Tensions are rising between Greece and the Czech Republic as Greeks protest the continued use of the term “Greek yogurt” or “yoghurt” by its fellow EU member. In 2015 the Czech government adopted requirements for dairy products that included standards for the commonly used term “Greek yoghurt”. Despite the ubiquity of the term to describe a kind of yogurt produced in numerous markets around the world, the Greek government has protested several times since then. In response to that internal pressure to restrict competition, the EU informally recommended to the Czech government that it amend its regulations, but the Czech government – recognizing the lack of consumer confusion in its marketplace – has apparently not moved to do so to date.

EURACTIV now reports that the EU is currently examining two letters of complaint from the Greek government and the Greek dairy industry. The term “Greek yogurt” is not currently restricted by a GI. But Greece argues that both “Greek yogurt” and “Greek-style yogurt” run contrary to an EU regulation that says consumers should not be misled in product marketing. To CCFN’s knowledge, no clear proof of consumer confusion has been offered by Greece to support its call for restricting the marketplace. Nonetheless, in July a European Commission spokesperson told EURACTIV that, “[U]sing the term ‘Greek yoghurt’ for products produced outside Greece would deceive consumers and would create unfair competition in the EU market.”

What say the Czechs? Pavel Vybíral, CEO of Polabské mlékáren, which is one of the Czech companies producing Greek yogurt, told the Czech publication E15.CZ, “The name ‘Greek yoghurt’ is now used worldwide — it does not refer to the origin of the product but to technology and composition. In Greece itself, the name straggisto is used for this type of product.”

Straggisto – or in translation, “strained yogurt”. The name “straggisto” is actually derived from a Turkish verb, “to thicken”. But don’t remind the Greeks.


UnCommon Hero

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

Fermo Jaeckle, CEO Intercibus Inc.

Fermo Jaeckle

Intercibus, Inc., based in Brookside, New Jersey, USA, provides sales, marketing and financial assistance in support of new entrants to the ever-changing U.S. specialty cheese market. CEO Fermo Jaeckle has a long successful history with the U.S. specialty cheese sector, including co-founding and leading Roth Kase USA, a Monroe, Wisconsin-based company that became one of the top 10 U.S. producers of specialty cheese, winning numerous awards in national and international cheese competitions. The company was acquired by Swiss company Emmi in 2009, and is now called Emmi Roth USA. Read more