Japan Rejects EU Attempts To Confiscate Many Generic Names

March 12th, 2018

CCFN welcomed the Japanese government’s decision in December 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 new policies in Japan, so that names that are clearly generic in the marketplace will remain accessible to everyone and that commonplace marketing practices can continue.”

Japan will provide a transition period of seven years for some 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. In addition, Japan appears to be newly enforcing certain labeling restrictions, such as a prohibition on the use of certain flags and other common labeling images.

“Japan can be viewed as a leader on this important issue if it follows its own law and preserves the present ability to cancel GIs if protection for them is no longer warranted,” Castaneda said. “We also expect Japan to ensure that all companies that make use of the targeted terms in Japan prior to implementation of the EU-Japan FTA are able to retain their rights to that grace period and that standard marketing practices are not upended as a means to disrupt competition.”

CCFN worked extensively to communicate with Japanese officials 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. Read the press release here. In 2018, we continue to interact with Japanese policy makers on the outstanding issues of concern in this major market.