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Food producers should to ready for potential shake up with Geographic Indicator Marks

August 27, 2020, By

As we speed towards the end of the transition period with the EU, it is not yet clear what the position will be in terms of Geographic Indicators. The Geographical Indicator regime has benefited food producers and enabled them to maintain prices and quality by ensuring that only products genuinely originating from a region can be identified as such in commerce. The system is far more widely used by producers outside the UK, but the competitive edge it gives UK producers to protect its own markets should not be underestimated after the end of the transition period. 

To ensure protection within the UK DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) has confirmed it will be setting up its own scheme to mirror the EU scheme. It will maintain the register of protected names and process new applications. There is some uncertainty however around what UK producers will need to do to ensure they maintain their Geographical Indicator protection.

Now is a good time for food producers and food brand owners to prepare to make sure they do not lose out on protection and they get the maximum benefit from the schemes available.

Like the EU scheme, the UK scheme will have three classes of protection:

  • Protected Designation of Origin ‘PDO’ which protects the name of an area and production and processing that takes within a specific area
  • Protected Geographical Indicator “PGI’ to protect a product which comes from an area and which is produced within a determined geographical area
  • Traditional Specialities Guaranteed ‘TSG’ to protect specific characteristics of goods but without certifying a link to a specific geographical area

The UK scheme will protect: 

  • food drink and agricultural products (including beer and cider) spirits
  • wine, including aromatised wines. There will also be a scheme to protect the uses of traditional terms for wine name.

The EU and UK are currently negotiating a Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement which if agreed will supersede the Withdrawal Agreement between the two at the end of the transition period. It may include an agreement that existing UK GI’s will continue to benefit from the scheme without having to reapply. This is the optimal outcome for a UK producer. 

At the end of the transition period if there is no further agreement on the economic future of the parties, the UK government has confirmed that all existing 88 UK products registered under the EU GI Scheme will get an equivalent UK GI status registration and remain protected in the UK. 

In the event that after the end of the transition period the EU changes its rules and UK producers cease to benefit from their protected status in the EU, by removing protection for UK GI’s, UK producers will need to reapply for recognition under the EU scheme. In this scenario non-UK producers may need to apply in the UK for continued protection.

We are monitoring the position for the businesses we work with so we can advise more specifically on steps to be taken to maintain protection. Meanwhile we are working to let food producers know about the benefits not only of GI’s but also of certification marks as another way in which they can control quality and preserve our food heritage.

Briffa are experts in all aspects of intellectual property law and practice. If you would like to book a free call or meeting with one of our expert IP lawyers, please contact [email protected] or phone 020 7288 6003.

Written by Margaret Briffa, Partner

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