USTR Special 301 Intellectual Property Report Features Section on Common Names

December 8th, 2021

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.

In the report, which annually details the global challenges related to intellectual property, USTR noted the EU’s policy of blocking fair competition through the adoption of GIs that restrict the use of common food and beverage names.

In response to the EU’s aggressive promotion of exclusionary GI policies, the report said, the United States will work to ensure that:

  • GI protections do not violate prior rights, such as a U.S. company with a trademark that includes a place name, for example, and do not deprive interested parties the ability to use common names, such as “parmesan” or “feta.”
  • Interested parties have notice of, and opportunity to oppose or seek cancellation of, any GI protection that is sought or granted.
  • Notices issued when granting a GI consisting of multiple terms identify the common name components.

USTR also indicated it will oppose efforts to extend the protection given to GIs for wines and spirits to other products.