Groups oppose handling of geographical indications in trade agreement revision

Groups oppose handling of geographical indications in trade agreement revision

Dairy groups say revisions to the Lisbon trade agreement do not take into account concerns about geographical indications

The U.S. delegation to the World Intellectual Property Organization's Diplomatic Conference on the Lisbon Agreement this week raised concerns about treaty changes that affect how the U.S. dairy industry can use generic food names in export markets.

Related: Dairy groups want to expand UN discussions on common food names

The National Milk Producers Federation, the U.S. Dairy Export Council and the International Dairy Foods Association jointly thanked the group for calling attention to the treaty changes.

U.S. representatives also said the agreement could impose costs on taxpayers, farmers and companies in other countries.

Dairy groups say revisions to the Lisbon trade agreement do not take into account concerns about geographical indications or common names, like "feta" or "gorgonzola." (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

WIPO is a United Nations agency charged with developing a balanced international intellectual property system. It concluded two weeks of talks in Geneva this week that both expanded the Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin to include geographical indications and expanded the protections granted under the international registry of protected terms.

Geographical indications limit who can use certain product terms or names – like "parmesan" and "feta" to "chorizo" – to those in a particular geographic area. GIs have been "widely abused" in recent years by European interests seeking to restrict competition from the United States and other non-European countries, the groups said.

"The treaty and its proposed changes are clearly aimed at preventing competitors such as dairy producers and processors in the United States and other non-European countries from using names in international trade that they have used for decades," said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern.

Related: EU cheese name policies still trade concern for US dairy industry

USDEC President Tom Suber added, "WIPO's decision to force non-Lisbon members into second-class status at this conference strips the resulting outcome of its legitimacy as an international agreement.

"It's clear that this agreement is an effort to promote the interests of GI holders at the expense of generic users, rather than trying to balance both those concerns in good faith. It is clear to us that there are serious WTO consistency problems with the approach Lisbon members have decided to pursue and we ask USTR to carefully examine how to address these trade commitment violations."

Source: National Milk Producers Federation, U.S. Dairy Export Council and the International Dairy Foods Association

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