EU QUALITY SCHEMES
Agricultural Products and Foodstuffs
In 1992, the EU introduced a regime to provide protection throughout the EU for geographical indications and designations of origin of certain agricultural products and foodstuffs. After a WTO panel ruled that certain aspects of the EU legislation were inconsistent with WTO rules, the EU introduced a new regulation – Council Regulation 510/2006 – allowing third countries to submit registration applications directly to the European Commission and to object directly to applications for new registrations. In November 2012, the EU adopted new rules on EU quality schemes. European Parliament and Council Regulation 1151/2012 repeals Regulation 510/2006.
European Parliament and Council Regulation 1151/2012 on “quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs” came into force on January 3, 2013. This new regulation combines the rules for Protected Designations of Origin (PDO), Protected Geographical Indications (PGI), Traditional Specialties Guaranteed (TSG) and optional quality terms into one single legal instrument. Registration under the different schemes is open to third countries. Wines and spirits are covered by specific legislation and do not fall within the scope of the regulation. Regulation 1151/2012 also provides for the development of mechanisms to protect PDOs and PGIs in third countries – within the context of the WTO “Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights” (TRIPS) agreement – or in bilateral and multilateral agreements. Although Regulation 1151/2012 entered into force on January 3, 2013, the European Commission still needs to adopt a set of “delegated acts” and “implementing acts” to apply the provisions set out in the new regulation.
“Protected Designation of Origin” (PDO) is defined under Regulation 1151/2012 as follows:
- Originating in a specific place, region, or in exceptional cases, a country
- A quality or characteristics of the product are essentially or exclusively due to a particular geographical environment with its inherent natural and human factors
- The production steps all take place in the defined geographical area
Example: Prosciutto di Parma (Parma ham)
“Protected Geographical Indication” (PGI) is defined as follows:
- Originating in a specific place, region or country
- Quality, reputation or other characteristics is essentially attributable to the geographical origin
- At least one of the production steps takes place in the defined geographical area
Traditional Specialties Guaranteed (TSG):
This scheme applies to foodstuffs with a “traditional” character. Products are eligible for registration if the product’s specific character results from a traditional production or processing method or if it is composed of raw materials or ingredients used in traditional recipes. Under Regulation 1151/2012 the time period for a product to be considered “traditional” is set to 30 years. Detailed information is available in GAIN Report ” The EU’s TSG Quality Scheme Explained”.
Optional Quality Terms:
Regulation 1151/2012 sets out criteria for the use of “optional quality terms”. The new optional quality term “mountain product” is reserved and the European Commission is empowered to reserve new terms or amend the conditions of use of existing terms.
“The European Commission’s website provides guidance on how to register a PDO/PGI or how to object to a PDO/PGI proposed for registration. Lists of protected names by country, product type, registered name and name applied for are available through the Commission’s online “DOOR” (Database of Origin and Registration) database.
Designations of origin and geographical indications on wines are protected through separate legislation. Commission Regulation 607/2009 lays down detailed rules on protected designations of origin and geographical indications, traditional terms and labeling. Chapter II of Regulation 607/2009 establishes the application procedure for a designation of origin or a geographical indication. Designation of origin or geographical indications which have been accepted are entered in a “Register of protected designations of origin and protected geographical indications” maintained by the European Commission. The register is available through the Commission’s online “E-Bacchus” database.
In 1999, the U.S. challenged the EU’s GI legislation in the WTO on two grounds: discrimination against U.S. GIs and failure to protect U.S. trademarks. In March 2005, a WTO panel ruled that certain aspects of the EU’s GI legislation were inconsistent with the WTO Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement and set a deadline for the EU to modify its regulation before April 2006. In March 2006, Council Regulation 510/2006 was adopted in order to bring the EU GI system into compliance with the ruling of the WTO panel. Commission Regulation 1898/2006 lays down detailed rules for the implementation of Regulation 510/2006.
The current TRIPS Agreement provides a high level of protection to wines and spirits but leaves the protection of agricultural products and foodstuffs to national governments. In the context of the WTO Doha Round, the EU has submitted a drastic proposal to amend the TRIPS Agreement in order to extend the same high level of protection to products other than wines and spirits. In addition, the EU is proposing to establish a multilateral register of GIs which would be legally binding for all WTO members. Two issues are debated in the TRIPS Council under the Doha mandate: the creation of a multilateral register for wines and spirits and extending the higher level of protection beyond wines and spirits. For more information see the WTO’s website at http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/trips_e/gi_e.htm.