Group asks USTR to safeguard generic food namesGroup asks USTR to safeguard generic food names
Consortium for Common Food Names urges government to reject EU abuse of geographical indications.
March 9, 2018
In testimony before the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) on March 8, the Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) urged the U.S. government to intensify its efforts to repel attempts by the European Union to confiscate generic terms within major trading markets as well as within the U.S. itself.
CCFN is an international nonprofit organization representing the interests of consumers, farmers, food producers and retailers that use a broad variety of food and beverage names. CCFN's testimony was presented as part of USTR's preparation for its annual Special 301 review of intellectual property rights protections among U.S. trading partners.
"The persistent and serious problem of the EU's transgressions regarding geographical indications (GIs) continues to be highly problematic for the U.S. food and agriculture sector," CCFN senior director Shawna Morris said. "It will require continued vigilance and action on the part of the U.S. government. We ask you to continue the core objectives outlined in the 2017 report and to continue to enhance U.S. efforts to hold our trading partners to their commitments."
In extensive written testimony and oral comments, CCFN noted that the EU's GI efforts "reached a fever pitch" in 2017, especially in terms of the trade agreements the EU forged with some of the U.S.'s largest and most important trading partners: Mexico, Japan, China and the Mercosur nations. As part of each of these agreements, "the EU consistently sought to confiscate common food and beverage names to block competition in those markets," CCFN said.
"The U.S. must continue to hold other nations to their trade commitments concerning market access but also to intellectual property rules that they have already established within their own countries," Morris said.
The EU's GI strategy expands beyond free trade deals and, in 2017, also included the EU's disregard for established international standards under the Codex Alimentarius Commission. Moreover, the list of products the EU is targeting continues to change and expand. In the area of GI and trademark filings, CCFN noted that entities supported by European governments continue attempting to misuse the U.S. trademark system to inappropriately register certification marks within the U.S. for terms that have long been generic.
"We strongly recommend that further improvements are made to the PTO trademark review process to more effectively ensure that the U.S. system can safeguard the rights of producers that use common names," Morris said.
CCFN expressed its appreciation for the strong and swift U.S. government responses over the past year to the EU's competition-restricting efforts on GIs. It urged the Administration to continue those efforts and to intensify opposition to what amounts to a growing threat to the U.S. food and agriculture sector.
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