Trade Marks
Posted on 13/11/2017

The effect of Brexit on geographical indications

The UK will have to legislate to protect geographical indications in the UK post-Brexit.

The European Commission has suggested that the UK legislates to recognise the protection of food products labelled with the EU’s geographical indications (GIs) after Brexit.

Geographical indications (GIs) are a central part of the EU’s food quality schemes. Some 1,402 food products enjoy protection under the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) and Traditional Specialities Guaranteed (TSG) labels, which also cover hundreds of wines, spirits and other agricultural products.  In the EU, Champagne, Cognac, Roquefort, Parma Ham and Scotch Whisky amongst others have GI status.

Geographical indications law restricts the use of the GIs for the purpose of identifying a particular type of product, unless the product and/or its constituent materials and/or its fabrication method originate from a particular area and/or meet certain standards.

A GI-identified product may command a higher price due to the reputation associated with the geographical area from which the product originates.  The GI-identified label recognises the specific regional and traditional qualities of certain products, offering consumers certainty over the authenticity and quality of their food and drink, while allowing producers to command higher prices.

In the European Commission’s position paper, it is suggested that the United Kingdom should put in place domestic legislation providing for the continued protection of GIs. Such protection should be “comparable to that provided by (European) Union law”, adding that all of the EU’s registered GIs must be given “automatic recognition” in the UK after Brexit.

The position paper went on to say that the “holder of any IP right having unitary character within the union and granted before the withdrawal date should, after that date, be recognised as the holder of an enforceable IP right in relation to the UK.”  It adds that if an application is pending on the date the UK leaves the EU then an applicant should be able to keep the benefit of any priority date for the pending application when applying in the UK.

While there is still uncertainty at present, the European Commission’s view appears to be a positive step toward ensuring that EU IP rights, such as EU trade marks and registered Community designs, continue to be enforceable in the UK after Brexit.

This view from the European Commission would appear to confirm what we had expected to be the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.

While it is envisaged that holders of EU trade marks and registered Community design rights will not lose protection in the UK upon Brexit, it would be prudent to review portfolios of existing EU trade mark and registered and unregistered Community design registrations now.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your IP position as a result of Brexit, please contact us.

Wilson Gunn