The EU has several geographical indications, like PDO (protected designation of origin) PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) that are similar to France’s AOC (appellation d'origine controlee). They all serve to protect the names of food and beverage products that come from a specific area, place, or country, like Champagne, feta cheese, Parma ham, and Cornish pasties.
Here’s a look at several geographical indication stories that have hit the news recently.
San Marzano tomatoes have long been touted by chefs as the best base for tomato sauce since they contain fewer seeds than other tomatoes. In Italy, San Marzanos fall under PDO (“DOP” in Italy) guidelines. Taste recently wrote that the bulk of San Marzano tomatoes sold in the United States “are fakes” citing Edoardo Ruggiero, the president of Consorzio San Marzano, who said “at maximum 5 percent of tomatoes sold in the U.S. as San Marzanos are real San Marzanos.” The articles points out that Since DOP is not regulated in the United States, one “San Marzano” tomato label actually says “Grown Domestically in the U.S.”
A recent New York Times featured a story about the French trade association, The Comité Champagne, suing German discount supermarket chain Aldi for selling a “Champagne sorbet” product made by Belgian company Galana. The sorbet maker claimed the product contained only 12% champagne, which is below the limit required for protection. The trade association saw things differently — its attorney remarked, "nothing is left of what makes champagne."
In the German state of Lower Saxony meat substitute products can no longer be sold as "sausage," "schnitzel," or "meatballs." And in a recent lawsuit, a German advocacy group was successful in its lawsuit against TofuTown over dairy-alternative products that it labeled “Soyatoo tofu butter” and “veggie cheese.” Germany’s agriculture minister has called for a ban on using meat names for vegetarian and vegan food. Christian Schmidt called the products like “vegetarian schnitzel” and “vegan currywurst” “pseudo-meat dishes” and seeks clear ingredient labeling on vegetable-based products.
And finally, earlier this month, the EU and China agreed to publish a list of 200 European and Chinese geographical indications to be considered for protection through a bilateral agreement that’s planned to be finalized this year. EU products on the list to be protected in China include Champagne, Gorgonzola, Bayerisches Bier, Feta, and Queso Manchego, among others. Chinese products seeking geographical indication status in the EU include Hengxian Mo Li Hua Cha (Hengxian jasmine tea), Panjin Da Mi (Panjin rice), and Baise Mang Guo (Baise Mango).If you’re involved in trademark screening, remember that for some products it's important to check for non-proprietary terms, such as Appellations of Origin and International Non-proprietary Names (INNs) for pharmaceuticals. Using the Corsearch Platform, you can screen the Appellations of Origin (Lisbon) trademark database. Learn more by visiting the Corsearch website.