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 agricultural products and foodstuffs, wines, spirit drinks and aromatised wine products.
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, provides consumers with reliable information on the place of production or specific characteristics of a product, and helps regions to attract tourists. 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. GIs are part of European cultural heritage and contribute to the social and environmental sustainability of the economy.
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 (e.g. in France).
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 fragmented system of laws that exist at national level. This would affect traditional non-agricultural products, from Carrara marble to Herend porcelain.
In November 2020, the IP action plan announced that the Commission will consider the creation of an EU-wide protection system for the protection of geographically-linked industrial and handicraft products.
In February 2020, we published an external study on the economic aspects of GI protection at EU level for non-agricultural products. The study is a follow-up to the public consultation on a possible extension of geographical indication protection of the EU to non-agricultural products that ran from July to October 2014 as part of the 2017 intellectual property rights strategy.
A study carried out on behalf of the Commission, on Geographical indication protection for non-agricultural products in the Internal Market was published in 2013.