Green light to the new European Regulation on the protection of Geographical Indications (GIs) for craft and industrial products
The previous legislation: various levels of protection for craft and industrial products
The Geographical Indications grant intellectual property rights protection for specific products, whose qualities are essentially linked to the area of production and enable the consumers to easily recognize the place where they are made.
Some European laws already exist to protect geographical indications for specific products: in particular, we refer to:
- EU Regulation no. 1151/2012 on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs (protecting, e.g., Prosciutto di Parma ham, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, Feta cheese or Gouda cheese);
- EU Regulation no. 1308/2013 on establishing a common organisation of the markets in agricultural products and to its supplementary Regulation on the protection of designations of origin, geographical indications, and traditional terms in the wine sector (protecting, e.g., Bourgogne AOC wine or Barolo wine);
- EU Regulation no. 787/2019 on the definition, description, presentation and labelling of spirit drinks, the use of the names of spirit drinks in the presentation and labelling of other foodstuffs (protecting e.g., rhum des Antilles françaises, liquore di limone della Costa d’Amalfi or Pálinka)
Despite the existence of several national and local laws on specific handicraft products, unlike in the food, wine and alcoholic beverages sectors, no uniform regulations were in place for the protection of handicraft products, resulting in various levels of protection across Europe: in fact, products like Murano glass, Albacete cutlery, Donegal tweed, Limoges porcelain, Solingen cutlery or Boleslawiec pottery, were protected differently.
The new European Regulation no. 2411/2023
After a long process, a new uniform regulation on the protection of geographical indications for craft and industrial products was finally approved in October 2023: the European Regulation no. 2411/2023 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 October 2023.
Once the regulation enters into force, geographical indications of craft and industrial products will enjoy similar protection to foodstuffs, wines, and spirit drinks, also in online trade, and better protected against counterfeiting.
According to art. 4 of the Regulation, “craft and industrial products” means products produced either entirely by hand or with the aid of manual or digital tools, or by mechanical means, whenever the manual contribution is an important component of the finished product, or products produced in a standardised way, including serial production and by using machines.
Regarding the requirements for protection as a geographical indication (art. 6 of the Regulation), the product have to originate in a specific place, region or country, the product’s given quality, reputation or other characteristic is essentially attributable to its geographical origin, and at least one of the production steps of the product takes place in the defined geographical area.
The Regulation has just entered into force, on 16 November 2023. However, with the exception of certain specific provisions referred to in article 73, which are already applicable now, it will apply in full as from 1 December 2025.
The key role of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO)
The EUIPO will play a key role in the implementation of the new protection system regarding the management procedure of registration, scheduled to be simple and cost-efficient. EU member States will choose whether to set up a national registration authority or delegate the whole approval process to the EUIPO.
For those States that decide to set up a national authority, there is a two-step registration procedure: producers interested in applying for geographical indication protection will have to submit their applications to the designated authorities, which will forward the successful applications to the EUIPO for further evaluation and final approval of the registration.
For those States that decide not to set up a national authority, EUIPO will handle the whole process.
The Office has to carry out the examination procedure within six months of the receipt of the application and assesses that there are no errors in the application and that it is complete. According to art. 34 of the Regulation, a Geographical Indications Division for craft and industrial products will be established within the Office.
This Division will be responsible in relation to: (i) the application for registration of a geographical indication; (ii) a request for amendment of the product specification; (iii) an opposition to an application or to a request for amendment of product specification; (iv) entries in the Union register and (v) a request for cancellation of the registration of a geographical indication.
Furthermore, the Office will establish and maintain an electronic Union register for the purposes of management of geographical indications for craft and industrial products, easily accessible and in a machine-readable format.
This newsletter is for the sole purpose of providing updates and general information and is not intended as legal advice on any particular or specific issue.
For clarifications or information, please contact the authors or your reference professional at the Firm.