30 August 2013

Geographical Indications - "If it's outside Yorkshire it's not worth ..................!"

The first day of August is Yorkshire day. Originally it commemorated the battle of Minden 1759 at which the 51st Regiment of Foot distinguished itself but it is now a celebration of all things Yorkshire. My home town of Holmfirth celebrated the day with all sorts of events as you can see from the Holmfirth Yorkshire Day Facebook page. I think that there were more Yorkshire flags around town for Yorkshire day than there were union flags for the royal wedding or even HM's diamond jubilee.

And why not. Yorkshire is a grand place, isn't it.  In the words of the Yorkshire Airlines sketch "If it's outside Yorkshire it's not worth bloody visiting. And the same goes for food and drink, right.  So how can you make sure that what you eat and sup actually originate from God's own county.

Well art 22 (2) of TRIPS requires members of the World Trade Organization to "provide the legal means for interested parties to prevent:
(a) the use of any means in the designation or presentation of a good that indicates or suggests that the good in question originates in a geographical area other than the true place of origin in a manner which misleads the public as to the geographical origin of the good;
(b) any use which constitutes an act of unfair competition within the meaning of Article 10bis of the Paris Convention (1967)."

For the purposes of this article geographical indications are defined by art 22 (1) as "indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a Member, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographical origin."

Traditionally the UK has protected geographical indications by the registration of collective and certification marks under s.49 and s.50 of the Trade Marks Act 1994 and the law of passing off (see Bollinger v Costa Brava Wine Co Ltd [1960] Ch 262, Vine Products Ltd v Mackenzie & Co Ltd [1969] RPC 1, John Walker & Sons Ltd v Henry Ost & Co Ltd [1970] 1 WLR 917 and Taittinger v Allbev Ltd [1993] FSR 641). These are now reinforced by Regulation (EU) No 1151/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 November 2012 on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs (OJ 14.12.2012 L343/1).

This regulation provides three types of protection:
  • Protected designation of origin ("PDO") which covers agricultural products and foodstuffs that are produced, processed and prepared in a given geographical area using recognised know-how;

  • Protected geographical indication ("PGI") which covers agricultural products and foodstuffs closely linked to the geographical area where at least one of the stages of production, processing or preparation takes place in the area; and

  • Traditional speciality guaranteed ("TSG"} which highlights traditional character, either in the composition or means of production.

Art 13 (3) of the Regulation requires  member states to take appropriate administrative and judicial steps to prevent or stop the unlawful use of PDI and PGI that are produced or marketed in their territories. 

Applications for registration of a product are made to the competent authority of any of the member states which in the case of the UK means the Regional and Local Food Team, Food and Family Group at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs ("DEFRA"), Area 8E, 9 Millbank, Nobel House 
17 Smith Square, London SW1P 3JR. Tel: 020 7238 6623 Fax: 020 7238 5728. The application then proceeds according to the following schematic:

So what Yorkshire goodies have achieved protected status under any of those schemes? Not a lot as it happens.  Swaledale and Swaledale ewes cheese and Yorkshire forced rhubarb so far though an application has just been published for Wensleydale cheese.

Geographical indications will be one of the topics I will discuss in my seminar on Branding - Trade Marks, Passing off, Domain Names, Geographical Indications in London on 25 Sept for which there are still a very small number of places. If you want to discuss how to achieve PDO, PGI or TSG status for your local produce or indeed to object to someone else's application for such status contact my  my clerk Stephen on 01484 599090 or fill in my contact form.  You can also follow me on twitter, Facebook, G+, Linkedin and Xing.