WIPO GI Symposium: CCFN Makes Common Names Part of the Dialogue

September 4th, 2019

wipo gi symposium

CCFN continues its steady engagement with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), most recently related to the structure and process surrounding the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement (2015), which may have a significant impact on how geographical indications (GI) are vetted and registered in multiple nations. To date, there are 29 members of the Lisbon Agreement, and the EU is expected to join soon. So far, there have been 1,012 GI registrations in the international register, which is administered by WIPO, with many more expected.

As a result of CCFN’s outreach, WIPO also included a panel on GIs and common names at its biennial Worldwide Symposium on Geographical Indications in Lisbon this summer. The symposium is considered the leading event in the global discussion of GIs. According to the World Trademark Review, this year’s event was well attended by government representatives, international intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, and individual participants from more than 60 countries.

CCFN representative Allen Johnson robustly advocated for the rights of common name users on the GI/common names panel. The panel began with oriGIn Director Massimo Vittori reviewing the principles governing protection of GIs in most national laws and international law, and citing the availability of the opposition process to address concerns regarding generic names.

Johnson responded by citing the rights of producers to use generic names, and the damage to consumer choice in the marketplace when GI holders can monopolize a name despite decades of a term being in common usage. Johnson stressed that it is possible to find common ground, but only if the rights of common names users are respected and there are objective legal avenues to oppose and refuse registration of GIs that have become generic.

“It has become increasingly clear that international organizations such as WIPO are a major focus of the EU GI agenda,” Johnson said after the conference. “It is important that CCFN engages in this forum just as we do on the bilateral, regional and domestic legal and negotiating fronts. By doing so, we can get our message out about the importance of common names and the need to protect the rights of common name users around the globe.”