spiritsNEWS December 2019

EU becomes member of the Geneva Act on the protection of Geographical Indications (GIs)

On 26 Nvoember, the EU became the key fight member of the Geneva Act, a landmark treaty for better protecting Geographical Indications.

The Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and their International Registration was adopted in 1958 and is administered by the International Bureau of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which keeps the International Register of Appellations of Origin. The Lisbon Agreement was last updated and enhanced in 2015 by the Geneva Act.

The Lisbon Agreement applied only to appellations of origin, while the Geneva Act extended that protection to geographical indications (GIs). There are over 3,000 names of food products from EU countries and non-EU countries currently registered, including +240 EU spirits GIs such as Cognac, Polish Vodka or Scotch Whisky. The protection of GIs is one of the top priorities of the spirits sector when negotiating bilateral trade agreements. GIs represent a significant value for our producers as 2/3 of our exports outside the EU are on GI products (on a total of €11.3bn exports in 2018).

The Geneva Act offers the possibility to secure protection of GIs through a single registration. The Agreement allows international organisations, such as the European Union, to join to make all EU GIs eligible for high-level protection by other parties of the Act for an indefinite period of time. This ambitious and modern Act offers additional protection against misappropriation of notoriety and cases of parasitism, allowing spirits producers to combat operators who are unduly seeking to take advantage of the reputation/image of GIs to promote their own products or services We are extremely grateful to all the decision-makers and WIPO for having accomplished such a great result!

The Geneva Act is to enter into force three months after five eligible parties have deposited their instruments of ratification or accession. As the EU is now the fifth eligible party to do so, the treaty will enter into force at the end of February 2020. This is a real first setp towards an international registry of GIs, which will allow improving the level of protection globally, beyond countries with which the EU has signed bilateral agreements.

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