The European Commission has put forward plans for a new framework aimed at protecting intellectual property (IP) for a range of craft and industrial products from Europe’s regions.
“While these products benefit from a European, and sometimes global, reputation and standing, producers have so far lacked an EU indication protection linking their products' origin and reputation to their quality,” the commission said.
The framework will cover products such Donegal tweed, and draws on a geographical indication (GI) system already in place for agricultural products and wine, such as Champagne and Prosciutto di Parma.
A GI is a sign used to indicate that a product has a specific geographical origin, and possesses a certain reputation or qualities due to that place of origin.
All producer groups from the area that manufacture a given product in a prescribed way can collectively use the GI.
The proposal announced today (13 April) covers products in areas such as ceramics, glassware, clothing, lace, jewellery, furniture and knives.
The commission points out that, while protection of those products is already granted in some member states, different national rules have resulted in varying levels of legal protection across Europe.
Under the current system, producers who want to protect a GI throughout the EU must apply for legal protection in each member state, adding to costs.
The commission adds that the lack of an EU-wide scheme also prevents EU producers from fully benefiting from protection at international level for their GI products.
Thierry Breton (the commissioner responsible for the EU’s internal market) stated that Europe had “an exceptional legacy” of world-famous crafts and industrial products.
“It is time that these producers benefit from a new intellectual property right, like food and wine producers, that will increase trust and visibility for their products, guaranteeing authenticity and reputation,” he said.
The commission proposal will set up a two-level application process. Producers need to file their GI applications to designated member states' authorities, who will then submit successful applications for further evaluation and approval to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).
A direct application procedure to EUIPO will also be possible for countries that do not have a national evaluation procedure in place.
Producers will also be able to self-declare compliance of their products with the product specifications.
EU producers of registered craft and industrial GIs will, as a result, be able to protect their products in all countries that are signatories of the Geneva Act on Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications under the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), to which the EU acceded in November 2019.