Since 2011, the Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs has been considering the opportunity of extending geographical indication protection at EU level to non-agricultural products. Currently such protection is only provided for wines, aromatised wines, spirits, agricultural products and foodstuffs.
A geographical indication (GI) is a sign used to indicate that a product has a specific geographical origin and possesses a certain reputation or qualities due to that place of origin. A GI typically includes the name of the place of origin. This name can be used by all organisations from the area which manufacture a given product in a prescribed way. Champagne or Prosciutto di Parma (ham) are well-known examples of agricultural GIs.
GIs can be misused by producers with no link to the designated place of origin who try to profit from the reputation of the original goods. Protecting a GI ensures fair competition for producers and provides consumers with reliable information on the place of production or specific characteristics of a product. The protection that GIs give helps to preserve traditional, high-quality products and know-how, and jobs related to them. GI protection is particularly important to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). It is also an incentive for investment in innovation to protect and enhance the high quality of protected products, while maintaining competitiveness.
There is currently no EU-wide GI protection for non-agricultural goods. Various laws exist in some EU countries that include regional or national regulations on specific crafts (e.g. ceramics), specific laws on a certain product (e.g. Solingen knives), or regional or national laws that protect all non-agricultural GI products.
This results in varying levels of legal protection across Europe. Non-agricultural producers who wish to protect a GI in the EU need to file for protection in each country where it is available, or rely on other tools such as trade mark protection, litigation, or action via administrative authorities in case of unfair commercial practice or consumer deception.
The European Commission is exploring the possibility of extending GI protection to non-agricultural products at EU-level to harmonise the patchwork of laws that exist at national level. This would affect traditional non-agricultural products, from Carrara marble to Scottish tartans.
A Public consultation on a possible extension of geographical indication protection of the European Union to non-agricultural products – Making the most out of Europe’s traditional know-how ran from 15 July 2014 to 28 October 2014.
This was followed by the conference in January 2015, Geographical indication protection for non-agricultural products – What do we learn from the public consultation?
A study carried out on behalf of the Commission, on Geographical indication protection for non-agricultural products in the Internal Market was published in February 2013.