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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

Not 2020…But Still Many Challenges

The rights of common name users continue to be under assault around the world and CCFN has been up to the challenge. In the courts, at the negotiating table, and country, regional and global forums, CCFN has been proactively representing its members’ interests.

While this newsletter only covers a small part of what CCFN does day-to-day, a quick look through the headlines shows that we are not resting on past success. The EU continues to try to deny the rights of common name users and CCFN must remain active in protecting those rights.

With a new administration in Washington this year, CCFN has been continuously engaging at every level of the new Biden administration, and with Members of Congress, to inform and secure support for domestic and international trade and intellectual property policies that defend common names. CCFN’s cooperative relationship with Congress and with U.S. government trade, agriculture and intellectual property officials has yielded some positive results.

For example, an attempt in 2020 from two European Consortium’s to restrict the uses “gruyere” as a common name in the United States was initially stopped at the U.S. Patent and Trademark level, thanks in part to CCFN’s input into the agency’s processes to evaluate trademark applications. The European Consortiums have since appealed the ruling to a U.S. District Court where CCFN is working with industry partners to depend. As we see it, this legal battle is bigger than just a fight over one particular name. It will signify how the United States handles predatory attacks on generic terms and how U.S. policy makers might engage on this issue with their counterparts around the world. A CCFN victory over Europe in this case would help discourage further attacks on other generic names in the United States and set a positive example to hold up to other governments.

Internationally, CCFN has been active across many markets, as well as at the global level through with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) as that organization adjusted to new leadership this year. Participation in international forums is essential to ensure that participants hear more than just the EU’s line of argument on GIs. This year virtually every corner of the world has had the opportunity to hear CCFN explain the historical relevance, rights, and economic importance of common names to their own intellectual property systems, trade relationships, consumers, and users.

We never forget that without your support these and other CCFN activities would not be possible, so we thank you.

Errico Auricchio
CCFN Chairman
President and Founder, BelGioioso Cheese

Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) and Allies Robust Defense of U.S. “Gruyere” Use

Over the first two quarters of 2021, the Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) and a coalition of other U.S. dairy stakeholders aggressively defended the generic status of the term “gruyere” in the U.S. market against efforts by the Swiss and French gruyere Consortiums to monopolize use of the term.  Read more

USTR’s Trade Report: GI Misuse a Priority Barrier to U.S. Food Exports

In a testament to years of CCFN advocacy efforts to elevate the issue of GI abuse to U.S. government officials, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative highlighted the issue in its annual National Trade Estimate (NTE) report on tariff and non-tariff barriers to U.S. exports. The issue of common names was included in USTR’s press statement on the report, with the agency viewing the issue as a priority concern. Read more

CCFN and Supporters Press U.S. Trade Representative Tai on Tackling Trade-Limiting Restrictions on Common Food and Beverage Names

At U.S. Trade Representative Tai’s Senate confirmation hearing in late February 2021, Tai told Senators on the Finance Committee that she would prioritize protecting the use of common food names in future trade negotiations. She noted that the United States secured historic protections for common food names in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and that she would build on that success in future trade negotiations. This follows on the heels of CCFN’s extensive work throughout last year to re-educated Congressional offices on the issue of common names and to press USTR to expand protections for those terms as it negotiates with trading partners. Read more

USTR Special 301 Intellectual Property Report Features Section on Common Names

In May 2021, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) issued its Special 301 report on intellectual property protection, which included dealing with the misuse of GI protections as a trade priority. To help inform the report, in January, CCFN filed with USTR extensive comments, outlining GI-related developments, the roles of foreign governments in driving those policies, and the impacts on U.S. farmers and food producers. Read more

CCFN Input Shapes International Trademark Association Comments on the EU’s Proposed System for Non-Agricultural Geographical Indications (GIs)

The International Trademark Association (INTA) utilized ample input from CCFN in its comments to the European Commission on their consideration of non-agricultural geographical indications (GIs). CCFN regularly seized GI-related opportunities for comment offered by the EU and other countries in order to consistently outline the core elements of well-designed GI systems. Read more

CCFN Engages with Africa in GI Workshop

In June 2021, CCFN presented in a webinar sponsored by USPTO and the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) focused on the use of common names and GIs in Africa. Approximately 60 participants across the ARIPO 19-country region participated in the event.  Read more

CCFN Submits Comments on EU GI and IPO System Changes

CCFN submitted two sets of public comments to the EU in response to a proposed revision of its geographical indications (GIs) system and its 2022 EU Intellectual Property Office’s (EUIPO) Guidelines on trademark practice. Read more

CCFN Discusses Collaboration with WIPO on Common Names

CCFN met virtually with U.N. World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Director-General Daren Tang in January to welcome him in his new role and to discuss potential areas of collaboration, particularly on issues related to the use of commonly named products.  Read more

Common Names Get Airtime in WIPO’s Global GI Symposium

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. Read more

CCFN Provides Guidance on GI Recognition at IP Forum

At the 2021 World Intellectual Property Forum, CCFN consultant Juan Antonio Dorantes Sanchez discussed the issue of common name confiscating through the misuse of GIs with more than 1,500 attendees from 30 countries. The event provided CCFN with an opportunity to continue to communicate to global audiences the importance of sound GI policies that respect the rights of generic users. Read more

Other EU FTA’s and Other CCFN Activities

Australia – EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA): Since the beginning of negotiations between the EU and Australia, CCFN has been engaging with the Australian government and private sector to promote the interests of common name users. For example, in March CCFN participated in a virtual stakeholder briefing event for the FTA and also submitted questions on GIs and common names usage to Australia’s Trade Department.

Chile – EU FTA: As with other EU FTA negotiations, CCFN continues to work with allies in Chile to promote policies that respect the rights of common name users. In May CCFN participated in the stakeholder meeting (Cuarto Adjunto) organized by the Chilean government regarding GIs in this FTA. CCFN followed this meeting additional discussions with Chile’s Intellectual Property lead in order to provide specific common name concerns related to these negotiations.

Vietnam – EU FTA: CCFN continues to monitor the implementation of this FTA. In a letter to Vietnam’s National Office of Intellectual Property in June, CCFN requested an update on the status of changes to their IP Law that will incorporate Vietnam’s obligations under the FTA. Of particular concern are the rights of prior users of terms that are to be protected as GIs and the opposition process for common users to avoid the government’s acceptance of illegitimate GI applications.

United Kingdom – Brexit: With a potential U.S.-UK FTA, CCFN closely monitors UK policies impacting GIs and common names in order to avoid future barriers to trade. As a result of Brexit negotiations, CCFN submitted a letter in July to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) with concerns about the UK’s adoption of the EU’s GI framework.

International Trademark Association (INTA) Videoconference on Mexico: CCFN continues to be involved on multiple fronts with INTA. In addition to the EU comments covered earlier, CCFN participated in a videoconference with INTA’s President to address IP issues in Mexico, including GIs. CCFN encouraged the creation of a balanced system for the protection of GIs that respects the rights of common name users.

Oppositions: CCFN continues to be proactive in opposing GI and trademark applications that threaten the use of common names. Some recent results:

  • Australia: As a result of CCFN’s successful opposition on a Gorgonzola trademark application, the applicant, Consorzio Per La Tutela Del Formaggio Gorgonzola, was ordered to pay a portion of CCFN’s costs related to this case.
  • Turkey: In June, Turkey partially accepted CCFN’s opposition to a “Morzarella” trademark and remove the dairy references from the application in order to ensure it would not impact use of the term “mozzarella”.
  • UAE: In June, the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Patent Office denied the registration of the term “Gorgonzola.” This action was the result of CCFN filing an opposition against a trademark application by the Consorzio per La Tutela del Formaggio Gorgonzola.

Other News from Around the World …

USPTO Gruyere Decision a Top 10 Trademark Ruling in 2020

The CCFN Gruyere issue received some recognition beyond the GI/common name community. Law360, a legal news service, cited the victory by U.S. dairy concerns over Swiss and French gruyere associations as one of the top 10 trademark rulings of 2020. As mentioned above, in August of last year, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Trademark Trial and Appeal Board rejected efforts by the associations to trademark the term “gruyere” in the U.S., finding that it is a generic style of cheese. Law360’s recognition of the significance of the decision reinforces its wider importance to CCFN’s members and the general public.

EU-China Agreement on GIs Takes Effect

An agreement on GIs between China and the EU took effect March 1, 2021 after eight years of negotiation, according to a report in China Daily, which said the country’s first comprehensive, high-level bilateral accord on GIs will facilitate exports and imports of products. CCFN worked extensively throughout the EU-China GI negotiations to secure specific affirmations that the GIs would not restrict use of key terms such as parmesan, mozzarella, and others.

India, EU to Work on GI Agreement

The EU and India in early May agreed to resume negotiations on a free trade agreement, including on a section related to GIs. The decision to restart trade talks eight years after they were suspended came during a May 8 virtual summit between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and leaders of the 27-member EU. In a joint statement, the sides said they would begin negotiations on a separate agreement on GIs that could be concluded separately or integrated into a final trade agreement.

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