Crafts and industrial products have recently been elevated in the world of IP. A new regulation which provides geographical indication protection for these products has recently been approved by the Council of the EU. Our Intellectual Property team considers this change and its impact on rights holders.
The Council of the European Union has recently approved a new regulation which provides geographical indication protection for crafts and industrial products, also known as non-agri GIs. This was the final step in the decision-making process and the ‘Regulation on Geographical Indication Protection for Craft and Industrial Products’ has since been published in the Official Journal of the EU. The Regulation introduces an EU-wide system of GI protection for industrial products such as cutlery or ceramics which are linked to the geographical area of production. As such, these products will now benefit from similar protection to regionally produced foods, beverages and agricultural products such as Parma ham and Champagne.
EU-wide GI protection is currently available for agricultural products and foodstuffs, including wines and spirits. Currently, the origin of non-agricultural products can only be protected on an EU-wide basis by filing a collective trade mark application. However, the use of a collective trade mark does not enable manufacturing associations to certify the link between quality and geographical origin according to pre-determined EU-level standards. In some EU Member States, these products can also be protected on the basis of national legislation.
Under the new rules, in order to qualify for GI protection, the crafts or industrial products must comply with the following requirements, linked to the products quality or reputation:
- It must originate in a specific place, region or country
- It must have a quality, reputation or other characteristic that is essentially attributable to its geographic origin, and
- It must have at least one production step taking place in the defined geographic area
In accordance with to Article 7 of the Regulation, the registration procedure will consist of two phases:
- A national body will process the application including a national examination and a national opposition procedure
- If the application passes the national procedure at point 1, then the national body will submit an EU application to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO)
EU Member States may choose to deviate from step 1 and instead submit the application directly to the EU stage at 2 above. Similarly, applications for EU GI protection from applicants in third countries will also be submitted directly to the EUIPO, which will examine the application directly. In contrast to the procedure relating to the agricultural GIs where the EU Commission has oversight, the EUIPO will serve as the competent authority for non-agricultural GIs.
The new rules will create possibilities for more stringent IP protection for a wide range of property owners in the crafts and industrial products industries. Potential products which could benefit if they can satisfy the conditions include Toledo Steel, Donegal Tweed, Waterford Glass and Antwerp Diamonds to name a few.
The Regulation brings eagerly awaited procedural guarantees, with the aim of harmonising national schemes for protecting crafts and industrial products at an EU level. It may also ultimately make protection more accessible for smaller businesses with more limited resources. Applications will be examined by the soon-to-be-formed GI Division at the EUIPO. Similar to the procedure with other IP rights, its decisions can be appealed to the EUIPO’s Boards of Appeal, and then subsequently to the General Court of the EU and the Court of Justice of the EU. The new procedures once up and running, will promote awareness and boost competitiveness for the crafts and industrial products industries.
Immediate next steps
The Regulation has been signed by the Presidents of both the European Parliament and the European Council and it was published in the Official Journal of the EU on 27 October 2023. In accordance with Article 73 of the Regulation, it will come into force on the twentieth day following its publication i.e. 16 November 2023. Save for certain sections which shall apply from 16 November 2023, the new system will finally be applicable from 1 December 2025. Change is clearly coming very soon!
For more information and expert legal advice on the new Regulation providing geographical indication protection for non-agri GIs, please contact a member of our award-winning Intellectual Property team.
The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.