Author

Nick Harrison

Associate

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Author

Nick Harrison

Associate

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12 December 2023

Brands Update - December 2023 – 4 of 8 Insights

New EU GI Regulation for Craft and Industrial Products: importance for brand owners not just in the EU

A new EU regulation which introduces geographical indication (GI) protection for craft and industrial products is now in force. Previously only available to certain wine, spirit drink, agricultural and food products, the new Regulation introduces a new category of protection, effective from 1 December 2025, across the EU.

What has happened?

  • Regulation (EU) 2023/2411 on the protection of geographical indications for craft and industrial products came into force on 16 November 2023.
  • Geographical indications, which protect the names of specific products linked to a certain geographical area, have previously only extended to wines, spirit drinks, agricultural and food products such as Feta cheese, Champagne and Puy lentils.
  • The new Regulation broadens the scope of protection on an EU-wide level to include craft and industrial products, with specific examples of items that could achieve protection including Murano glass, Solingen knives, Donegal tweed, Limoges porcelain and Carrara marble.
  • The new regulation is important not only for producers of craft and industrial products but for all IP owners. This new IP right should be factored in when undertaking clearance searches for new brands. Those who are already using names which are subsequently protected by this new form of GI will also need to ensure that they are permitted to do so.
  • EU producers can seek extra-EU protection for their products under the new regime, but importantly, non-EU producers of non-EU craft and industrial products can also pursue GI EU-wide protection for products that otherwise comply with the requirements under the Regulation.
  • The new Regulation comes at the same time as important changes are being proposed to the existing regulations covering GI protection for wines, spirit drinks and agricultural products, including changes to the ability of providers to use the names of protected GIs for their products where the protected GI-product constitutes an ingredient (article here).

Want to know more?

Why do craft and industrial products need protection?

Craft and industrial products with strong links to specific areas often depend on local knowledge, traditions, production methods and socio-cultural heritage which have deep ties to the relevant region, usually going back over significant periods of time. Production of many of these products is under threat from a wide variety of factors, including a lack of investment, counterfeiting, a lack of consumer awareness and rural depopulation. The aim of the EU in providing effective IP protection for such products under the Regulations is to counter these threats, empower local producers and ultimately safeguard these sectors and their related cultural knowledge.

What protection is currently available?

Until the entry into force of the Regulation, there was no harmonised, EU-wide, central form of protection for non-agricultural GIs. Makers had to rely on equivalent national legislation, to the extent any existed (indeed several member states provided no such statutory framework), for protection. However, even for producers who benefitted from such national protection, without broader international recognition this protection was severely restricted. This issue has become particularly acute in the e-commerce context, given the importance of online trading for goods that are traditionally produced in highly localised, often rural areas.

The Regulation was a key part of the European Commission's Intellectual Property Action Plan, launched in November 2020, and the resulting proposal, which built on the existing GI regulations for agri-food products, was adopted on 13 April 2022.

What can be protected?

Under the regulation, "craft and industrial products" encapsulates products that are:

  • produced either entirely by hand or with the aid of manual or digital tools, or by mechanical means, whenever the manual contribution is an important component of the finished product, or
  • produced in a standardised way, including serial production and by using machine.

In addition, there are a number of requirements that such products must satisfy for the name to qualify for protection as a GI:

  • the product must originate in a specific place, region or country
  • the product’s given quality, reputation or other characteristic must be essentially attributable to its geographical origin, and
  • at least one of the production steps of the product must take place in the defined geographical area.

What rights will GI owners have?

A GI protects against unlawful use of the indication in relation to the relevant product and permits producers to use the "Protected Geographical Indication" (PGI) logo, depicted opposite. The approach with the new Regulation is largely the same as existing GI regime relating to agri-food products, albeit without the distinction between protected designations of origin and protected GIs. 

The Regulation also prevents the "evocation" of a protected name, which requires a clear link with the product to be created in the average (European) consumer's mind and introduces specific protective rights in relation to domain names, goods in transit through the EU (that are not being released for free circulation there), and distance selling (such as e-commerce). These provisions mirror some of the changes to the regulations covering wines, spirit drinks and agricultural products.

How will protection be obtained?

Producers of craft and industrial products can obtain protection for a GI either through application with the EUIPO or via reciprocal international agreements with countries in which the relevant products already have protection.  EU producers can therefore seek extra-EU protection but importantly, this also provides an opportunity for non-EU producers of non-EU craft and industrial products to pursue GI EU-wide protection for products that otherwise comply with the requirements under the Regulation.

The GI regime for craft and industrial products will, unlike for agri-food products, be led by the EUIPO, who will manage the registration procedure, along with examinations and oppositions. Member states may also designate local competent authorities responsible for the national registration phase of the process, although producers can skip this step and go straight to the EUIPO to register. The Regulation also establishes a new GI division at the EUIPO and an advisory board for the regime, and requires public authorities in member states to conduct market checks and controls to prevent unlawful use of the indication.

Member States are given one year (to 2 December 2026) to notify the Commission and the EUIPO which craft and industrial GIs protected at national level should be registered at EU level, after which their protection will cease to exist at national level.

Who can use a GI once registered?

Interestingly, producers of craft and industrial products benefitting from GI protection can self-declare compliance with the requirements, which differs from the need to adhere to strict authenticity assurance processes under the existing agri-food product regime.

What does this mean?

There has been concern from certain areas, in particular industries that benefit from the pre-existing GI regime (wine, spirit drinks, agricultural and food products) that enabling producers of craft and industrial products to use the PGI logo in relation to their products will render the logo less meaningful, particularly in light of the new self-certification process (which is not easily available to producers under the pre-existing regime) and the more streamlined registration process.

However, the Regulation provides a welcome development for both producers and consumers of craft and industrial products, both in the EU and further afield, and is a recognition of the value pertaining to the know-how of producers of traditional and cultural heritage products.

The availability of EU-wide GI protection will, according to the EU, improve consumers' trust in the authenticity of craft and industrial products and act as a reliable signifier of their quality. It will also empower local producers by protecting against counterfeiting, incentivising investment and offering greater certainty through the provision of a central, harmonised framework for protection.

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