Melton Mowbray pork pies, along with 85 other food and drink products produced in the UK, currently benefit from protection over the use of their names as “geographical indicators” (or GIs).
GIs ensure that products using a certain name (such as “Melton Mowbray” or “Double Gloucester” cheese, for example) fulfil certain criteria – typically relating to the geographic location where such products are produced. In other words, a Melton Mowbray pork pie cannot come from anywhere other than a designated zone around Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire.
It’s not just pork pies and cheese that benefit from GI protection. Think “Cornish Clotted Cream”, “Scottish Wild Salmon”, “Scotch Beef”, “Jersey Royal Potatoes” and “Traditional Cumberland Sausage”.
As an EU member state, the UK currently benefits from protection of its various GIs in both the UK and EU through operation of EU regulations. However, when the UK leaves the EU, it will no longer be bound by the existing regulations, likely resulting in GIs losing their current protected status under UK and EU law. Perhaps unsurprisingly, EU GIs (such as “Cognac” and “Roquefort” cheese) would also likely lose protected status in the UK.
So are we set to see Champagne originating from the midlands? Parma Ham originating from London?
Like many things relating to Brexit, it’s difficult to know…
Recently published UK Goovernment guidance suggests that one of its main objectives is that UK GIs are recognised in the EU. That said the UK Government has also been reluctant to confirm that EU GIs will continue to be recognised in the UK following Brexit. In other words, neither the EU nor the UK appear ready to commit to mutually recognising the other’s GIs in the relevant territory.
Much will come down to the outcome of negotiations relating to future trade agreements between the UK, EU and other third countries such as the US. Without such trade agreements recognising UK GIs, it seems unlikely that GIs will continue to be automatically protected in the EU.
However, regardless of the outcome of these negotiations, there is an alternative option UK food and drink producers can take: file for a “certification mark” in the EU. These marks are trade marks commonly owned by one entity, but which are used by many other food producers provided that those producers’ goods have been “certified” as fulfilling certain requirements (for example, that the products have been made in a traditional manner, or relating to quality of ingredients).
However, applications for certification marks can often be expensive, time consuming and complex. In our view, such complexities can be avoided provided that sensible, mutually beneficial outcomes are agreed between the UK and EU following Brexit.
If you require any advice regarding GIs, certification marks or other intellectual property issues, please contact Tom Broster at Briffa Legal (Tom@Briffa.com)