Monday 26 October 2020

The New Protected Food Names Scheme as it will apply in Wales

Author Ian Medcalf Licence CC BY-SA 2.0  Source Wikipedia Sheep Farnubf in Wakes

Some food and drink products derive their qualities from the climate, soil or some other attribute of the place in where they are produced or by production methods that have been developed in that place.  Well known examples include champagne, Scotch whisky and Parma ham. Consumers seek out such products because of their place of origin or manner of preparation.  It is therefore in the public interest as well as the interests of those producers that suppliers of competing goods from other regions do not market their goods as goods coming from the same region.

The signs used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to their origin are known as geographical indications.  They are a type of intellectual asset that the United Kingdom and other parties to the WTO agreement are required to protect by Section 3 of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights ("TRIPS").  In the United Kingdom, these requirements are satisfied by the law of passing off, the registration of certification and collective marks and sui generis EU intellectual property rights established by Regulation (EU) No 1151/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 November 2012 on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs OJ L 343, 14.12.2012, p. 1–29.
Regulation 1151/2012 establishes a system for the registration of the names of food or drink products in the following categories: protected designations of origin ("PDO"), protected geographical indications ("PGI") and traditional specialities guaranteed ("TSG").  
PDO: The name of an area used as a designation for an agricultural product or a foodstuff,
  • which comes from such an area, place or country,
  • whose quality or properties are significantly or exclusively determined by the geographical environment, including natural and human factors,
  • whose production, processing and preparation take place within the determined geographical area.
Conwy mussels are an example of a PDO.  Goods that are protected by a PDO are sold under a red and gold roundel of ploughed fields and a circle of stars.   

PGI:  The name of an area used as a description of an agricultural product or a foodstuff:
  • which comes from such an area, place or country,
  • which has a specific quality, goodwill or other characteristic property, attributable to its geographical origin,
  • at least one of the stages of production, processing or preparation takes place in the area. 
Traditional Welsh Caerphilly cheese is an example of a PGI.  Goods protected by a PGI are sold under a blue and gold roundel of similar design to that of the PDO.
TSG:  The name of a product that has a "specific character" in that its raw materials, production method or processing are "traditional".  "Specific character" means "characteristic production attributes which distinguish a product clearly from other similar products of the same category."  "Traditional" means "proven usage on the domestic market for a period that allows transmission between generations; this period is to be at least 30 years".   They are not necessarily connected with a particular geographical area.   Traditional Bramley apple pie fillings are an example of a TSG.  Goods protected as TSGs are sold under a blue and gold roundel consisting of stars and the words "Traditional Speciality Guaranteed."
More details of the scheme are provided in the DEFRA Guidance EU protected food names: how to register food or drink products.  
Applications for registration are made to the authorities of a member state to consider whether the product complies with the regulation.  In the UK the relevant authority is the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs ("DEFRA").   DEFRA  publishes applications to enable third parties to make representations in opposition to the application if they so wish.  If the national authority upholds the application it is forwarded to the Commission for final consideration.  The Commission publishes the application to allow those injecting to the application to oppose it.   In there is no opposition or the opposition fails the application proceeds to registration.   

Member states are required to take administrative and judicial steps to prevent or stop the unlawful use of PDO and PGI  by art 13 (5) of the regulation.  Similarly, TSG are protected against any misuse, imitation or evocation, or against any other practice liable to mislead the consumer by art 24 (1) and member states are required to ensure that sales descriptions used at national level do not give rise to confusion with names that are registered by art 24 (2).  Suppliers of foods or drinks that are protected by the regulation may take proceedings against infringers of their rights may take proceedings in Wales in the High Court or County Court.
The regulation will cease to apply to the UK from 23:00 on 31 Dec 2020.  However, art 54 (2) of the agreement by which the UK withdrew from the EU requires the British government to continue the protection for PDO, PGI and TSG afforded by the regulation under the laws of the UK.  The mechanism by which the UK will implement that obligation is to incorporate the regulation into the laws of the UK with effect from 23:00 on 31 Dec 2020 under s.3 (1) of the European Union (Withdrawal Act) 2018 as modified by  The Agricultural Products, Food and Drink (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 pursuant to s.8 (1) of the Act.

The new British scheme is essentially a continuation of the EU scheme with DEFRA performing the functions formerly carried out by the Commission.   The one big change that the public is likely to notice will be the replacement of the EU roundels for PDO, PGI and TSG with the following British roundels:
Source DEFRA  Licence Open Government Licence

Further information is available from the DEFRA press release of 22 Oct 2020  New rules and logos to protect British food and drinks. its guidance EU protected food names: how to register food or drink products and my article Geographical Indications in the UK after 31 Dec 2020  30 Sept 2020 NIPC Law. Anyone wishing to discuss this topic may call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact page.