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Agricultural Product Quality: MARQUES speaks out

MARQUES, the organisation representing trade mark proprietors in Europe, has released a position paper on the EU Commission Green Paper on Agricultural Product Quality. This paper is co-signed by MARQUES Chair Jane Collins, and Miguel Angel Medina, who chairs the organisation's Geographical Indications Team, has been sent to the EU Commission.

The content of MARQUES's position, which you can download here, is as follows:
"Q5: Should the use of alternative instruments, such as trade mark protection, be more actively encouraged?
Possibly the requirements for qualifying for the wide protection provided b the geographical indications system should be stricter than they are, as while a very strong protection can be justified in the case of certain highly reputed indications, as also happens in the case of trade marks, it would not be warranted to apply the strong level of protection provided by the EU regulations to any geographical indication.
A tool as the collective trade mark could be a more appropriate mean of protection in the EU in many cases and would provide better chances of defending the rights of the owners of previous trade marks and find a balance between the protected interests of the parties.
It is possibly a tool which is still underutilised under the CTM system and the Madrid system. Other tools which are likewise valid means for achieving the desired result in an equitable way are the guarantee marks and certification marks, which are also
provided by the legislation of many countries.
These tools also offer the possibility of protecting geographical indications in the manner that they are really used in the market (e.g., very often with specific  overalls including words and devices) and it is a fact that many collective trade marks are owned by the organisations representing geographical indications and used to defend their geographical indication.

Q6: Should additional criteria be introduced to restrict applications for geographical indications? In particular, should the criteria for protected geographical indications, as distinct from protected designations of origin, be made stricter to emphasise the link between the products and the geographical area?
While the PDO makes clear that there is a link with the product at all levels, the PGIs do not. PGIs only inform the consumer that “something”, without saying what, has a geographical link with the product. That is not informational enough and can be misleading for the consumer as to which the link with the geographical is (if the raw material, the process, etc.).

Q9: What are the advantages and disadvantages of identifying the origin of raw materials in cases where they come from somewhere other than the location of the geographical indication?
The consumer is not aware of the difference between PDO and PGI and in many cases thinks that the products of a PGI come from the geographical area whose name the PGI benefits from. Clarity is always good and in the end leads to a fair competition. E.g., if the consumer thinks that the raw material for a product benefiting from a PGI does
come form the geographical area mentioned by the PGI, the raw material from that area might in the end benefit from a reputation that it is not justified and even a superior image of quality than the real geographical areas where those raw materials come from. This can distort free competition in the market. Possibly, at least nowadays the relevant question is not so much Q9 as Q6, which could serve to solve the main problem.

Q10: Should the three EU systems for protection of geographical indications be simplified and harmonised and, if so, to what extent? Alternatively, should they continue to develop as separate registration instruments?
The current regulations are confusing. Less than before as now the proceedings are becoming more and more similar. The most practical approach would be that to the extent that this is possible regulations for protection as a PDO or PGI would share the same procedural rules, grounds for opposition, etc., for all the goods for which geographical indications are provided. The new regulations have many points in common, but still there are some nuances and/or differences in their respective texts that might lead to different (and maybe unwanted) interpretations and different jurisprudence without a real justification for it. Harmonisation would bring more legal certainty. Similarly as to what happens with trade marks, where there are not different registration regulations depending on the product.

Posted by: Blog Administrator @ 23.21
Tags: Commission Green Paper on Agricultural Product Quality, MARQUES,
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MARQUES does not guarantee the accuracy of the information in this blog. The views are those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect those of MARQUES. Seek professional advice before action on any information included here.

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