New trends in protecting intellectual property in the EU

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In the provisional political agreement (reached in the beginning of May 2023) the European Parliament and Council adopted a new regulation to protect the intellectual property for craft and industrial products; it relies on the originality and authenticity of traditional skills from in the EU states and regions.  

     New regulatory framework will cover products such as glass, textiles, porcelain, cutlery, pottery, cuckoo clocks, musical instruments and furniture.
Among various products benefiting from this new geographical indication protection scheme are such famous items as: Murano glass, Donegal tweed, Porcelain de Limoges, Solingen cutlery, cuchillos de Albacete, Boleslawiec pottery, etc. While such products benefit from an EU and sometimes world reputation and standing, producers have so far lacked an EU scheme recognising and protecting the products’ origin link with their reputation to their quality.
As Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market mentioned at the occasion of the agreement (03/05/2023): “Many small, family-owned businesses the EU produce traditional craft products, rooted in their region; the new regulation will help protect and boost the visibility of their craftsmanship across the EU Single Market”.

On geographical indications
Geographical indications establish intellectual property rights protection for specific products, whose qualities are essentially linked to the area of production.
Product names can be granted a ‘geographical indication’ (GI) if they have a specific link to the place where they are made. The GI recognition enables consumers to trust and distinguish quality products while also helping producers to market their products better.
On the one hand, the EU has specific GI protection for wines, spirit drinks and other agricultural products and foodstuffs. Champagne or Prosciutto di Parma (ham) are well-known examples of agricultural GIs, a framework already in place since 1992.
However, there is currently no EU-wide GI protection for craft and industrial 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 craft and industrial GI products (e.g. in France).
This results in varying levels of legal protection across Europe. Craft and industrial 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.
Geographical indications comprise: = PDO – protected designation of origin (mainly for food and wine); = PGI – protected geographical indication (also for food and wine); and = GI – geographical indication (mainly for spirit drinks).

    The EU geographical indications system protects the names of products that originate from specific regions and have specific qualities or enjoy a reputation linked to the production territory is involved in the goods’ production. The differences between PDO and PGI are linked primarily to how much of the product’s raw materials must come from the area, or how much of the production process has to take place within the specific region.
GI is generally specific for spirit drinks.
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Short regulatory history
The provisional political agreement follows the Commission proposal for a new EU regulation on geographical indication (GI) that was adopted in April 2022. Building on the Intellectual Property Action Plan (November 2020), the European Commission decided to consider the feasibility of a GI EU-wide protection system for craft and industrial products.
The Commission’s draft regulation was built on calls from producers, regional authorities, the European Parliament, Committee of Regions, etc. to create a regulatory framework for the protection of craft and industrial products.
Further impulse to the Commission’s work came in November 2019, when the EU joined the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement on Appellations of Origins and Geographical Indications, a treaty administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization, WIPO.
Presently, the EU legislation protects GIs for agricultural products, food and wines; the new rules would create a complementary protection system, aiming as well for high intellectual property protection, improved consumer information and boosting regional recovery. The new system will offer the same level of protection while taking into account the different nature of craft and industrial products.
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Protection of geographical indications: new rules
New rules for protecting geographical indications for craft and industrial products will:
= Establish EU-wide rules for craft and industrial products to help producers protect and enforce the intellectual property rights of their products. It will also address the currently fragmented and partial protections that exist at national level. The new rules will also facilitate online protection of craft and industrial GIs, as well as action against fake products, including those sold online.
= Enable simple and cost-efficient registration of GIs for craft and industrial products by establishing a two-level application process: it will require producers to file their GI applications to designated EU states’ authorities, which then will submit successful applications for further evaluation and approval to the European Union Intellectual Property Office, EUIPO. However, a direct application procedure to EUIPO will also be possible for the EU states that do not have a national registration procedure in place. The new regulation will also facilitate the registration of GIs, in particular for SMEs; also, the new rules would offer a possibility for producers to self-declare compliance of their products with the product specifications, making the system lighter and less costly.
= Allow full compatibility with international GI protection by enabling producers of registered craft and industrial GIs to protect their products in all countries that are signatories of the Geneva Act on Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications under the WIPO, to which the EU acceded in November 2019, and which covers craft and industrial GIs. At the same time, it will now be possible to protect corresponding GIs from third countries’ “intrusion” in the EU.
= Support the development of Europe’s rural and other regions by providing incentives for producers, especially SMEs, to invest into new authentic products and create niche markets. The new rules will also help to retain unique skills that might otherwise disappear, particularly in Europe’s rural and less developed regions. Hence the states would benefit from the reputation of the new GIs and attract tourists while creating new highly skilled jobs in the regions and boosting regional socio-economic recovery.

     Bottom-line. The new regulation will enable EU producers to protect craft and industrial products and their traditional know-how in Europe and beyond, including online. Thus, the regulation will make it easier for consumers to recognise the quality of such products and make more informed choices. It will help to promote, attract and retain skills and jobs in Europe’s regions, contributing to their economic development. The regulation will also ensure that traditional craft and industrial products are finally put on an equal footing with protected geographical indications that already exist in the agricultural area.
Provisional agreement is now subject to formal approval by the Parliament and the Council to enter into application in 2025.

     More information in: = Commission proposal for a new EU Regulation on geographical indications; = Questions and Answers.
Additionally on geographical indications for craft and industrial products in:

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