30/01/2020 – China-US: The recent economic trade agreement and its implications for GIs

On 15 January, the US and China reached an economic trade agreement , which represents the first phase of an overall attempt to reduce trade tensions among the two countries.

Section F (articles 1.15 to 1.17) concerns GIs and might raise issues in terms of well-established intellectual property principles. In particular:

  • According to art. 1.15.1, China will ensure that any measures taken in connection with pending or future requests from any other trading partner for recognition or protection of a geographical indication pursuant to an international agreement do not undermine market access for U.S. exports to China of goods and services using trademarks and generic terms. This provision might be interpreted in way that reduces the threshold to consider a term generic (the fact of having exported goods which label conflicts with a GI does not mean that the corresponding name has become generic). Having said that, article 16.1.a reaffirms the internationally recognized Intellectual Property principle of territoriality applicable to GIs, concerning the evaluation of genericity to be conducted in China (the country where protection is sought) based on consumers perception and objective criteria.
  • Art. 1.16.b, states that any geographical indication, whether granted or recognized pursuant to an international agreement or otherwise, may become generic over time, and may be subject to cancellation on that basis. This is contrary to art. 12 of the WIPO Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement on Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications, which represents the international standard for GIs protection.

The interpretation given to, as well as implementation of, the US/China economic trade agreement GIs clauses will be crucial to evaluate their practical implications.

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