On 13 December, the US, Mexico and Canada signed the USMCA. The trade agreement talks had been concluded in October 2018 and an earlier version of the text had been published then.
As for GIs (Section E, articles 20.29 to 20.35, pages 14 to 20), the USMCA provides the following elements:
- GIs can be protected in the parties’ jurisdictions through a sui generis system, a trademark or other legal means (art.20.29);
- Before granting protection through their national administrative procedures, the parties must provide a transparent opposition phase (art.20.30);
- The grounds for opposition (earlier trademark and terms customary in common language) must be evaluated with respect to the territory of the party where a GI application is lodged (art. 20.31);
- GIs protected in the parties through agreements concluded or agreed in principle before the USMCA conclusion will not be subject to art.20.35 of the USMCA.
The USMCA will now have to be approved by legislatures in the three countries to become effective.
The USMCA does not regulate the level of protection to be given to GIs in the contracting parties, which is left in the hands of the national and other international norms applying in the three countries. It rather concerns procedural issues related to GIs registration. Two elements should be mentioned in this respect. On the one hand, the GIs provisions of the EU and Mexico modernized Global Agreement, agreed in principle on 21 April 2018, will not be affected by the USMCA. On the other hand, the USMCA seems perfectly compatible with the possibility for the parties to join the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement on Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications, under which countries have one-year period to accept or refuse the protection of a GI notified via the agreement.
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For more information about bilateral and plurilateral agreements covering GIs see the concerning category in the section Policy and Advocacy