Mr. Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament, seeing the danger of not having the majority resolution of negotiations for the Transatlantic Investment and Trade Agreement USA – EU (TTIP), he decided to cancel the debate in plenary on Tuesday (9/6/2015). The report now will be discussed in the competent Committee on International Trade of the European Parliament (INTA), which will decide whether it will be put to the vote in plenary of European Parliament again. One of the agricultural issues that is difficult to be resolved in the ongoing negotiations on the TTIP is the EU demand that the USA should recognize and protect the EU’s list of geographical indications (GIs).
In the USA the GIs products are considered as an European system that provides “privileges” to companies which have developed business – commercial activity in a region for decades or centuries. For the USA industry, the GIs enhance the protection in trade.
The geographical designations are protected by the general trademarks and are considered as a subcategory of those, because –according to American Law– names using a geographical qualifier, just as the trademarks do:
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The competent authority which records trademarks and GIs is the United States Patent and Trademark (USPTO).
It is mentioned that in the USA products and services considered as generic are not protected. A product is generic when it is synonymous of an entire category of products / services, but without pointinig to a specific geographical origin. “Feta” and “Parmesan” cheeses are examples of generic products, that any producer could use these names.
According to American Law, signals refer exclusively to a geographical area could be recorded and protected only in the following cases:
a) Certification mark
A certification mark does not refer to the producer of this product. Therefore, each one who could produce the same product with the same specifications and the same methods has the right to use the certification mark.
b) Collective marks
These kind of marks are adopted by a collective leadership (association, cooperative organization) in order the collective marks being used exclusively by its members and define products / services from them, opposite to similar products dirived from different collective leadership.
Based on the American Law, the protection of GIs and signs happens by their record to USPTO, provided that the geographical designation has acquired “secondary meaning” and it refers not only to the geographical origin of the product, but to the origin of its production (producers, manufacturers).
Finally, product names containing geographical designations are protected by the general law without its record to USPTO, when consumers believed that these products derived in a specific region. A typical example of this case is the word «COGNAC» which refers to brandy produced in the Cognac region of France, with some quality high standards and not any other brandy produced somewhere else.