oriGIn: our work for a more uniform and coherent implementation of the ex officio protection of PDO/PGI for agricultural products in the EU Member States
The expression ex officio protection commonly refers to an active role played by the public authorities of a given country to ensure the respect of the rights deriving from Geographical Indications. The clarification and strengthening of the PDO/PGI ex officio protection through 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 was undoubtedly a major improvement of the European legal framework on Geographical Indications. By virtue of Article 36 of the above-mentioned Regulation, each EU Member States had to designate its competent authority/ies in charge of monitoring the use of PDO/PGI on the market, in conformity with the protection conferred to them by Article 13 of the same Regulation. Such authorities must offer adequate guarantees of objectivity and impartiality, and shall have at their disposal qualified staff and resources necessary to carry out such functions. As the ex officio provisions represent a novelty in several EU countries, though, their uniform and coherent implementation remains a challenge.
In 2013, oriGIn and its partner – the consultancy firm Development Solutions – were awarded EU-sponsored project “Training Programme on Quality Schemes: PDO/PGI/TSG”. The project aims at providing EU Member States national authorities in charge the PDO/PGI ex officio protection (as well as the authorities responsible of supervising PDO/PGI compliance controls’ systems) a comprehensive training on the EU Legal Framework on PDO/PGI, thereby contributing to ensure a more uniform and coherent implementation of the ex officio protection of PDO/PGI for agricultural products within the EU.
The initial phase of the project provides 10 trainings (to be held in Lisbon, Milan and Paris), 5 of which have been so far successfully completed. oriGIn has selected among its network 5 experts and developed the training material, focusing mainly on concrete cases of PDO/PGI infringements and best practices in the application of the ex officio protection. For each training, in partnership with the national GI associations of Portugal, Italy and France, oriGIn organises a “GI evening” to give the competent authorities’ staff the opportunity to discover the uniqueness of local PDO/PGI.
Legal Affairs: “Associazione fra produttori per la tutela del SALAME FELINO” v. Kraft
On 8 May, 2014 the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issued its decision in case No. C-35/10 on the geographical denomination “SALAME FELINO”, following the 2012 request by the Italian Supreme Court (Corte di Cassazione) concerning the interpretation of Article 2 of Council Regulation (EEC) No 2081 of 14 July 1992 on the protection of geographical indications and designations of origin for agricultural products and foodstuffs (Regulation (EEC) 2081/92), in force at that time.
“SALAME FELINO” is a pure pork salami sausage, produced in the town of Felino, located in the province of Parma. When the dispute aroused, “SALAME FELINO” had not yet obtained recognition at the EU level. The dispute in fact dates back to 1998, when the “Associazione fra produttori per la tutela del SALAME FELINO” (“Associazione fra Produttori”), and its 12 member companies, brought an action before the “Tribunale di Parma” against Kraft Jacobs Suchard SpA (today Kraft). Kraft was accused of unfair competition under the relevant Italian Law (Legislative Decree No 198/1996) for marketing a salami under the geographical denomination “Felino”, which was manufactured outside the Felino area. Kraft opposed this claiming that the applicable law was the Regulation (EEC) 2081/92, under which the denomination “SALAME FELINO” was not recognised and therefore not protected.
In 2001, the “Tribunale di Parma” found that “Associazione fra Produttori” could not rely on Regulation (EEC) No 2081/92, but rather on the relevant national law. Furthermore, the Court held that the conduct of Kraft constituted an act of unfair competition, having “Salame Felino” acquired a reputation among consumers with respect to its characteristics and origin. Kraft appealed the decision before the Court of Appeal of Bologna, alleging that the national law conflicted with Regulation (EEC) No. 2081/92. The appeal was dismissed and Kraft lodged an appeal to the Italian Supreme Court. Following this, the Italian Supreme Court requested a preliminary ruling to the CJEU to assess the conditions under which a geographical denomination may be used to designate a product manufactured outside of the relevant zone, when such denomination is not recognised at the European level as a designation of origin or a geographical indication.
The CJEU ruled that Council Regulation (EEC) No 2081/92 must be interpreted as meaning that it does not afford protection to a geographical denomination which has not obtained a Community registration. The use of such denomination, though, falls under national law, such as the one on unfair competition, provided that, first, the implementation of that legislation does not undermine the objectives pursued by Regulation (EEC) No 2081/92, and, secondly, it does not contravene the principle of the free movement of goods under Article 28 EC, matters which have to be determined by the national court.
Read the JUDGMENT OF THE COURT
The case will now send back to the Italian Supreme Court. Meanwhile, “SALAME FELINO” entered in the EU register as a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) on March 2013.