Trade Marks and Geographic Indication

Trade Marks and Geographic Indication

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National pride – how countries use IP to boost tourism and trade

At this time of year in normal circumstances many of us would be about to set off on our summer holidays, looking forward to embracing foreign cultures and customs, as well as sampling delicious local food and drink. Tourism has taken a major hit from COVID-19, with international travel halted and movement restricted even within countries. As nations formulate plans to bounce back from the crisis, boosting travel and trade between nations will be high on the agenda and creativity, along with good intellectual property management, can play a key part.

Here are some examples of how countries and the producers within them are using IP to build their brands and boost their economies…

“Made in…” – linking origin to desirability    

Would you prize a product that was “Born in Latvia”, or perhaps you’d be tempted to sample the produce of “The Housekeeper – created in Serbia”? These are two recent examples of countries that are aiming to build global awareness of the quality and desirability of goods produced within their borders by registering the phrases as trademarks.

“Born in Latvia” is a joint initiative from the Latvian Exporters Association, also known as the “Red Jackets” and the Latvian Institute. The group contends that the country needs a more “convincing, united and clearly readable image” that symbolises Latvia and is applicable across all sectors. The brand aims to change perceptions about Latvia and create a positive economic image that will attract international investment and tourism.

Serbia’s brand campaign is more focused on stimulating domestic consumption, designed to promote patriotic purchasing of home-grown or manufactured products. The president of the Chamber of Commerce of Serbia, Marko Cadez, explains that the trademark will indicate not only that the product was made in Serbia, but also that it is of high quality and contains local raw materials and knowledge. He describes this as “a new philosophy for consumers”.

Geographical Indications – shorthand for delicious!

Trademarks are a conventional way to indicate the source of goods and services, but there are other ways that regional producers can build a brand and emphasise the unique features arising from where they are made and/or the method of production. One option is to establish a Geographical Indication or GI.

As defined by WIPO, a GI is a “sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin.” The WIPO’s Lisbon system is the international register of GIs or ‘Appellations of Origin’ as they are also known. This system allows producers to register once and benefit from GI protection in multiple territories covered by the Lisbon Agreement.    

For producers a GI creates value by communicating to the consumer the product qualities that are generated by production in a certain region e.g. soil, climate and other natural features unique to that area. It can also confer value on traditional techniques of production, preserving cultural heritage and reinforcing regional identity.

A GI may be used by producers who are based in the specific region and whose products reach the specified standards.

Use of a GI can enable producers to charge a premium for their products and preserve this advantage by protecting the GI from use by producers of similar products who are based in other locations. It can also protect small producers from competition from mass-produced copycat products, creating demand for the “genuine article”.

Although it seems as though summer holidays to far flung places may be off the agenda for 2020, thanks to geographical indications and trademarks, you can find delicious authentic produce from numerous countries in your local supermarket, so why not embark on a global tour of fantastic regional European produce – without leaving home. Here are four of our favourites from the UK and Europe and some of the IP-related stories behind them:

Halloumia narrow squeak in trademark terms

The famous ‘squeaky cheese’ is synonymous with Cyprus, evoking clear skies and sea breezes as you enjoy a simple supper by the sea. There were red faces for the Cypriot government in 2018, though, when the failure of officials to respond to an application by a British company to cancel the mark was overlooked and the trademark was cancelled in the UK as a result.

Facing the potential loss of the £70m UK Halloumi market, the Cypriot government acted to regain the trademark and was successful in January 2020. The government is now also moving to register a European Union Protected Designation of Origin (P.D.O) for Halloumi.

No-secco please – we’re Italian

Rising to popularity in the past 10 years in competition with another iconic GI – Champagne – the name Prosecco can be used by producers of Italian sparkling wine from nine provinces in Northern Italy. Its GI is registered to the Prosecco Consortium. The consortium hit the headlines earlier this year when it opposed the registration of the “Nosecco” trademark in the UK.

Nosecco is an alcohol-free sparkling drink produced by French company Les Grands Chais de France (GCF), for which it was seeking trademark protection. Following the Prosecco Foundation’s opposition, the UK IPO refused the application, a decision that was upheld in the High Court on appeal. As GCF pointed out, however, the decision does not stop it from marketing “Nosecco” it simply stops it from having trademark protection, so despite the ruling UK consumers can continue enjoying guilt-free fizz… Cheers!

A taste of Cornwall

The southwest of the UK is a wild and rugged land, with a spectacular coastline and rich history of mining and seafaring. Those miners and seafarers traditionally went to work fuelled by a pastry-wrapped combination of meat and vegetables, called a pasty, which originated in the 14th century and has become synonymous with Cornwall. Cornish pasties are now a £300m per year market employing 2000 people and supporting the local farming industry to the tune of £15m.

The Cornish are a famously proud people and, in 2011, the Cornish Pasty Association worked with the UK government to apply for and secure Protected Geographical Indication status for the robust snack. In doing so the Association had to submit the recipe for a genuine Cornish pasty, which is described as filled with uncooked mince or beef chunks, with potatoes, swede, onion and light seasoning. Crucially, the recipe also stipulates that the pasty should be D-shaped and crimped on one side, never on the top.

This stipulation has led to ongoing controversy, with some producers claiming that a crimp on the top should also be allowed. Cornwall’s pride in its pasties persists, nevertheless, with the first “Cornish Pasty Week” being held in 2018 and rumours of attempts to apply for UNESCO heritage status.

Newcastle Brown Ale – once a very local tipple

Geographical indications are strictly limited to products that are made in the specified territory, which nearly proved problematic for the famous Newcastle Brown Ale. In 2000 it was protected geographical indication status, being produced in Newcastle’s Tyne Brewery on the banks of the river of the same name. However, in 2004, producers Scottish and Newcastle made a controversial decision to move production across the Tyne to Gateshead. Despite being located only around three kilometres away, this officially meant that the ale produced at the new site was no longer “Newcastle Brown Ale”.

Scottish and Newcastle had to apply to have the GI cancelled in order to continue producing its flagship product under the same name. The request was granted, and now Newcastle Brown Ale has flown far from its north-east roots, being produced in the John Smith’s Brewery, Tadcaster for the UK market, and in the Zoeterwoude Brewery, the Netherlands, for the increasingly growing US market.

So whether you’re keen on a glass of Prosecco with your Halloumi, or prefer a Cornish pasty with your pint of Newcastle Brown Ale, by choosing GI-protected products, you are helping to boost economies and protect producers and you know that the product you pick is authentic. And as you tuck in, you can look forward to the day when you can visit the producing regions in person once more!

Read more:

WIPO has a wealth of resources on GIs

CITMA has a great blog post delving into the details of GIs