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News blog14 December 2023European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency

The New EU Regulation on the protection of craft and industrial products

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On October 18th, the Regulation on the protection of geographical indications for craft and industrial products was approved (EU Regulation 2023/2411), coming into force less than a month later, on the November 16th, although its effects will not be visible until 2025. In this blog post we will provide an overview of what is known about this new mechanism, what kinds of products will be protectable under this new mechanism, the conditions and requirements for such protection, and the procedure which applicants will have to follow to obtain it.

Geographical Indications are a particular type of intellectual property right which identify a product as originating from a specific geographic location and possessing qualities, characteristics or a reputation attributable to that place of origin. They exist in various forms – as Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), Protected Geographical Indications  (PGI) and Geographical Indications (GI), all of which have essentially the same function but vary in the intensity in the link between the geographic origin and the quality or reputation of the product. They are commonly referred to under the umbrella term “Geographical Indications” (for more details on the differences between each, we invite you to visit the European Commission’s dedicate page here) and serve to protect and promote unique products associated with a specific region. GIs are registered rights which protect against imitation and misuse: they are the reason you can trust that a bottle of Champagne is indeed from the French region of Champagne, or Parmiagiano cheese from the region of Parma in Italy.

 

  1. What is this new mechanism?

Regulation 2023/2411 introduces the new mechanism which will allow producers of craft and industrial products to obtain GI certification and protection for these goods. This marks a significant widening of GI protection at EU level since until now Geographical Indications could only be obtained EU-wide for agricultural products and foodstuffs, wine and spirit drinks. Some Member States already provide GI protection and registers for non-agricultural goods at national level, but this did not exist at EU level[1].  From the moment this new mechanism becomes operational (which is expected to be no later than the end of 2025), manufactured and industrial goods will therefore also be able to be protected as Geographical Indications. Regulation 2023/2411 will be followed by an implementing regulation which will provide more details on the practical aspects of the registration mechanisms.

While the European Commission’s Directorate General for Agriculture and rural development (DG AGRI) is in charge of the GI protection of food and wine, the registration and protection of Geographical Indications for craft and industrial goods will be under the supervision of the European Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), the EU’s IP Office already in charge of the registration of EU-wide trade marks and designs.

 

  1. Which products can benefit from GI protection under the new Regulation?

As said above, the only products which can benefit from GI protection at EU level at the moment are agricultural goods including food, wine and spirit drinks. Under this new regulation, the list is extended to craft and industrial products. Craft products are those which are either entirely made 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. Industrial products are goods which are produced in a standardised way, including serial production and using machinery. In other words, both goods which are either made by hand or via industrial means are capable of being protected through GI certification.

While the nature of the products which can be protected is very wide, and as is the case for food and wine GIs, there are some specific requirements related to, well, the geographical nature of the goods. Indeed, to obtain the rank of Geographical Indication, one must demonstrate that the manufactured product in question (1) originates in a specific place, region or country which must be precisely defined and is not simply a product which happens to be made in one region; (2) the product’s quality, reputation or other characteristic is essentially attributable to its geographical origin, and (3) at least one of the production steps must take place in the defined geographical area.

Example of products which satisfy the abovementioned requirements are Limoges porcelain or Murano glass.

 

  1. The procedure for obtaining GI protection under the new Regulation

As stated above, Geographical Indications are registered rights, meaning that they are obtained through registration, much like trade marks or patents.

Who will be allowed apply for GI protection for craft and industrial products?

In principle, an application for GI protection must be submitted by an association of producers from a given region who manufacture the same product.

What will GI applications contain?

The application must include a list of specifications related to the product, including at least: 

  • The name of the geographical indication – it does not necessarily need to be the name of the region in which the product is manufactured
  • The specification of the relevant regional area where the goods are manufactured and the link between the region and the quality, reputation or characteristics of the product in question
  • Evidence that the product does in fact originate from the region described
  • A description of the product and production methods

Where will the applications be filed?

While the EUIPO will be in charge of managing the EU register of Geographical Indications for craft and industrial products, it will not be the main office to which applications will be submitted. Indeed, the mechanism described in Regulation 2023/2411 provides for a two-step procedure, with a “national phase” and a subsequent “Union level decision”.

Each Member State will designate one competent authority who will be in charge of receiving applications and their examination. Where the substantive requirements are met, the competent authority will then publish the GI application allowing third parties to file an opposition if they believe the GI should not be granted.

If the GI application is accepted at national level, the competent authority will then pass on the application to the EUIPO which will double-check the application to scan for manifest errors or lacking information, publish the application at EU-level and allow for an EU-wide opposition procedure. At this stage, both an interested party or the competent authority of another Member State may oppose the registration of the GI (no opposition from parties located in the country in which the application was filed will be accepted at this stage). Only after this opposition period has passed (and not successful opposition filed) will the GI be granted at EU level.

Member States which currently do not have a national system for the protection of craft and industrial product GIs will have the option to ask for a derogation asking the EUIPO to be the receiving office of application for craft and industrial product GIs. Such derogation will only be given to countries which can provide evidence that the local interest for protecting geographical indications for craft and industrial product is low. Where it is given, applicants from a Member State which does not have a competent authority to receive the applications will therefore have to file their application directly with the EUIPO, thereby skipping the “national phase” mentioned above.

 

 

[1] These national mechanisms will cease to exist by December 2nd 2026, and national registers will have to communicate which of GIs already registered through their national systems are to be registered at EU level. 

 

Details

Publication date
14 December 2023
Author
European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency