Decisions Pending in Challenges to GIs in Mexico; Fight over Parmesan in Guatemala Continues

March 12th, 2017

mexico-flagRulings are expected in the coming months in Mexico on legal challenges filed by CCFN and its members to geographical indications requested by Italy for asiago and gorgonzola. The United States is the primary exporter of asiago and gorgonzola to Mexico, which had treated the two cheese names as generic for many years. The challenges were filed after Mexico failed to act on objections to both GIs last year.

The GIs were part of a wave applications in 2015 under Mexico’s membership in the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Lisbon Agreement. Mexico’s handling of Lisbon Agreement applications raise serious questions given the country’s commitments to market access through the World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade Agreement. CCFN argues that Mexico’s process for handling Lisbon Agreement applications shows a shocking lack of due process and needs reform urgently. The dispute over the asiago and gorgonzola GIs comes as the European Union has made clear it wants an updated free trade agreement to expand GIs in the Mexican market.

In a positive step, as Mexico decides how it will recognize foreign geographical indications, the country has embraced a CCFN recommendation by creating an official list of GIs for public comment, allowing official tracking of GIs. The list was formally posted in mid-February.

Elsewhere in Latin America, the legal fight to uphold parmesan’s status as a generic term in Guatemala continues. After repeatedly losing at the administrative level, the European Union is appealing to the country’s Supreme Court, seeking to overturn rulings that parmesan is generic and free for use by both local producers and importers. CCFN worked with its Guatemalan member to defend the generic status of parmesan in the market. CCFN commends Guatemala for its steadfast refusal throughout this process to kowtow to EU pressure, instead choosing to preserve the rights of its dairy industry and its trading partners.