Geographical Indications

You may have noticed some faux gravity in media outlets of late dealing with cheese. If you’ve been tuned to Olympic coverage, you are forgiven for having missed such rollicking headlines as: “Judge Won’t Give Gruyere the Champagne Treatment.”[i]   Or Planet Money’s  “cheesy story” on radio trying to decipher a label with a trade

The new year is unfolding, and we are unexpectedly back in our kitchens, or should be, as we minimize socializing in indoor restaurants and bars. A downer, to be sure, but also an opportunity to reflect on some legal issues affecting food and wine. With apologies to those who prefer a classic menu, I’ll be

Just in time for holiday meal prep, we have a legal quandary worthy of debate.  Your side dish recipe calls for brown basmati rice bejeweled with cranberries and pomegranates. Sounds alluring. But what exactly is Basmati rice?

The answer, like so many things in law and life, is “it depends.”  Cooking websites tell us that

A press release from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in early October heralded the key achievements of the recently concluded U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, intended to replace the vilified NAFTA agreement that dated from the early 1990s. Let’s take a look at what the release said about Geographical Indications:

“The Parties agreed to provide

For our inaugural issue, and because it’s harvest time in California where we are located, we’ll devote space to a little understood form of intellectual property protection called geographical indicators or GIs that are about to become headline news. In the U.S., GIs can be protected as certification marks or perhaps collective marks through registration at the USPTO and some trademarks may incorporate geographic terms.  But other countries and the European Union have more elaborate sui generis systems for protecting and registering GIs; some treaties also protect GIs. This difference in approach and attitude is fueling tensions in several international arenas that have direct effects on producers in California and other states, and policymakers in Washington, D.C.

WIPO and Free Trade Agreements

Developments at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva about Geographical Indicators (GIs) and new Free Trade Agreements (FTA) negotiated by the European Union (EU) with Canada, Japan and China in recent months will have direct bearing on the worldwide marketability of dairy and viticulture products, not only those originating in the U.S., but also those from other large exporting countries like Argentina and Australia. The EU FTA negotiations with the Mercosur countries of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay began in early October in Buenos Aires and will continue through the end of this year. It’s likely the EU will seek to extend within the Mercosur countries the same protections it achieved for its list of GIs agreed earlier with Canada, Japan and China. Old World and New World norms in food culture are clashing, and the talks are peppered with old-fashioned trade policy maneuvers.

Your Feta or Greek Feta

The push for expanded GI protections has now reached international proportions. It affects the bottom line of US and other New World producers who argue that many Old-World designations for cheese in particular have become mere common names or generic terms for food items in North and South America and Asia and are no longer deserving of special protection. At stake is the use of such terms as Feta, Asiago, Gorgonzola or Fontina, among others, to label cheeses that move in the global marketplace. In this two-part article, we’ll look at the essential vocabulary for understanding this form of intellectual property protection and analyze the regulations and policy issues at play that may affect clients in these important industries.Continue Reading Food Fights Heat Up