USTR Report Emphasizes Protections for Common Name Users

ARLINGTON, VA – The Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) applauded the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) prioritization of common name restrictions as a primary trade barrier in their 2021 National Trade Estimate (NTE) report released last week.

The comprehensive, 570-page document captures the broad range of nontariff barriers for U.S. goods and services exports around the world. In the agency’s press release, restrictions of common food terms was cited as a priority trade impediment that American producers face when looking to export their generically named foods and beverages. In the report, USTR notes, “[t]he United States remains highly troubled by the EU’s overbroad protection of geographical indications (GIs), which adversely impacts both protections of U.S. trademarks and market access for U.S. products that use common names in the EU and third country markets.”

“USTR’s recognition of GI misuse as a means of confiscating market share is an important step toward proactively addressing this problem,” said Jaime Castaneda, CCFN Executive Director. “We are encouraged that CCFN members’ persistent work alongside the U.S. government on this issue has elevated the concerns surrounding GI abuse from a relatively obscure issue just a decade ago to a priority for the agency. It is imperative that USTR and its interagency partners work to ensure common names are not further restricted by the European Union’s blatant attempts at monopolizing generic terms that consumers around the world have come to know and love.”

CCFN continues to work alongside USTR to build upon the precedent set in the recent U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) negotiations on the inclusion of a list of common cheese names to be protected from GI restrictions in perpetuity. Similar proactive measures are necessary to ensure that products with common names can continue to be sold around the world without unfair limitations.