Marketers of food products, take note:
a swath of European locales will soon be restricted from being used
in certain food product names. The new restrictions are
requirements of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive
Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), the full text of which
was released on Sept. 24, 2014. While ratification is not expected
until 2015 or 2016, it is never too early to prepare for the
potential effects of CETA on product marketing and advertising.
While CETA covers a broad spectrum of
trade issues, one of the more important effects of CETA for food
and beverage advertisers will be the significant increase in
protection for European geographical indications in Canada.
Geographical indications, as defined under CETA, are terms that
identify an agricultural product or foodstuff as originating in a
region or locality where a given quality, reputation or other
characteristic of the product is essentially attributable to its
geographical origin. Canada currently only protects geographical
indications for wines and spirits through the Trademarks
Act. Protection for geographical indications for other
products is available only through the registration of
certification marks by interested parties. However, under CETA,
Canada will be required to protect more than 170 additional
geographical indications for foods and agricultural products,
including various cheeses, spices, beers, and cured meats.
Specifically, CETA requires Canada to
provide the legal means to prevent the use of any geographical
indication specified under CETA in association with that
indication's product class. Trademark registrations including
the geographical indication must also be refused if they are made
in respect of that indication's product class. However,
existing trademarks are exempted from the new required protections
for geographical indications.
Fortunately for Canadian companies,
there are some exceptions to the geographical indication
requirements. For example, the names Asiago, Feta, Fontina,
Gorgonzola, and Munster can still be used with respect to cheeses
if accompanied by expressions such as "kind",
"type", "style", or "imitation".
Additionally, these cheese names can be used without such
expressions by any person who made commercial use of them prior to
Oct. 18, 2013. Certain translations in English and French of
protected geographical indications may also still be used, such as
Bavarian beer, Black Forest Ham, and Valencia oranges.
It should be noted that CETA also
requires that both Canada and the European Union prohibit any
person from manufacturing, preparing, packaging, labelling, selling
or importing or advertising a food commodity in a manner that is
false, misleading or deceptive or is likely to create an erroneous
impression regarding its origin. This may restrict marketers from
including place names in product identities even where the place
name is not otherwise covered under CETA.
It remains to be seen how the
requirements of CETA will be interpreted and implemented into
Canadian law. For now, however, marketers should be aware that
their ability to refer to new products using European geographic
indications may soon be limited.
For the full list of protected geographical origins, please see
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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