Europe Won’t Own “Parmesan” and “Bologna” in Japan: Japan Rejects EU Attempts To Confiscate Many Generic Names

December 20th, 2017

The Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) welcomes the Japanese government’s decision 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.

“Japan took the right steps in preserving the vast majority of terms that were of concern to CCFN members worldwide, and in doing so helped maintain the choices and fair competition that will benefit Japanese consumers,” said CCFN Executive Director Jaime Castaneda. “Now we are urging continued consistency and fairness as they establish the finer points of the agreement, so that names that are clearly generic in the marketplace will remain accessible to everyone.”

Japan will provide a transition period of seven years for prior users of certain terms, including cheese names asiago, feta, fontina and gorgonzola, after which time the EU could have sole rights to these names; but some of the details of this temporary “grandfathering” are as yet unclear.

“Japan can be viewed as a leader on this important issue if it follows its own law and allows for the cancellation of GIs over the course of the seven-year grace period that follows implementation of the trade agreement,” Castaneda said. “We also expect Japan to ensure that all companies that make use of the targeted terms in Japan prior to implementation are able to retain their rights to that grace period.”

In addition to these key issues, CCFN is seeking clarification on whether certain common meat terms that are part of compound GIs – such as “salami” and “prosciutto”, will remain generic.

CCFN worked extensively to communicate with Japanese officials in recent weeks about the harm that would be done to Japanese consumers, producers and retailers, as well as to relationships with key trading partners, if Japan granted sole rights to the EU to use these generic names on products in the Japanese marketplace.

“The EU’s goal is simple: to benefit its own producers by improperly extending GIs to unfairly restrict competition,” said Castaneda. “This decision by Japan shows that governments are catching on to – and rejecting – this scheme as harmful to their nations’ own interests.”

When only one set of producers is allowed to use a generic name for a product, the result is less competition, higher prices and less consumer choice, Castaneda said. CCFN maintains that the EU should only be permitted to protect legitimate specialty names used in full – usually compound names that contain a geographic region, such as “Mortadella Bologna”, “Prosciutto Toscano”, “Mozzarella di Bufala Campana” or “Gouda Holland”.