The European Parliament has approved the regulation for non-agricultural geographical indication (GI) protection, covering craft and industrial products like lace, glass, jewels, ceramics and more. This regulation aims to harmonise national systems, boost consumer awareness and elevate producer competitiveness. These rules may serve as the guardians of the unique qualities of region-specific non-agricultural products, ensuring their authenticity and preserving the cultural heritage tied to their origin.
Geographical indications grant intellectual property rights to region- specific products, whose qualities are closely tied the area of production. In the EU, GI protection was traditionally limited to wine, spirit drinks and agricultural products categorised as follows:
Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)
Protected Geographic Indications (PGI)
Geographical Indication of Spirit Drink (GI)
Two Step Registration
Non-agricultural GIs will be protected under a system equivalent to PGIs, differing from the PDO system. Protection will be based on the products unique quality, reputation or other characteristics attributed to its geographic origin.
The registration process involves a two-step procedure, beginning at a national level and followed by examination of the application by the European Union Intellectual Property Office at EU level. Member States can request to be exempt from setting up a national registration procedure and in those cases, the EUIPO will have control over the whole procedure.
The EUIPO serves as the competent authority for non-agricultural GIs, a contrast to agricultural GIs, where the European Commission holds this role. Applications will be assessed by the newly established GI Division at the EUIPO. Subsequently, applicants have the option to appeal to the EUIPO's Board of Appeal, and if necessary, pursue further action in the General Court and eventually the Court of Justice.
The introduction of these new regulation will have far-reaching benefits for property owners of non-agricultural products that meet the requirements for GI status. Notable examples of potential non-agricultural GIs include Waterford Glass originating from Ireland, Harris Tweed with distinctive patterns from the Isle of Harris and Lewis in Scotland, and Toledo Steel renowned for its quality blades, including the famous Toledo Swords.
This initiative aims to harmonize national schemes for protecting the names of craft and industrial products on an EU level. Moreover, it strives to make protection more accessible, particularly for resource-limited micro, small or medium enterprises.
Once a product attains non-agricultural GI status, it will be treated as an intellectual property right and its use may be controlled in a number of ways. For instance, products labelled as GIs but failing to meet registration criteria can be confiscated by customs authorities upon import into the EU.
By safeguarding the distinctive traits of region-specific non-agricultural products, GI protection fosters innovation and investment in the craft and industrial sectors. A 2019 study for DG Agri revealed that GI products commanded prices 2.07 times higher than non-GI products. A 2021 survey of producer groups created for the European Commission found significant benefits, including improved quality management (87%), enhanced market access (76%), and price and market stability (51%).
However, opposition arises from some GI associations, concerned that non-agricultural GIs using the same PGI logo might dilute the "power" of the PGI logo for agricultural and drinks products, owing to the less stringent registration criteria for non-agricultural GIs.
The European Parliament's approval of the regulation for non-agricultural geographical indication protection marks a significant milestone. It promises to harmonize national systems, promote awareness, and boost competitiveness for craft and industrial products. As we await final approval from the Council of Ministers, this scheme is on the horizon, set to protect and celebrate the unique qualities of Europe's non-agricultural treasures while stimulating innovation and investment.