3 December 2018Trademarks

EU mixes up GI rules for spirits

Negotiators at the European Council and the European Parliament have agreed on new rules covering the registration and protection of geographical indications (GIs) covering spirits.

The Commission announced the agreement on the new Spirit Drinks Regulation on Tuesday, November 27, noting that the spirit sector generated more than one million jobs and €11 billion ($12.5 billion) worth of exports in 2017.

Currently, regulation EC number 110/2008 governs the production of and labelling for all spirit drinks produced in and imported to the EU.

In 2016, the Commission proposed to improve the legal formulation of certain provisions relating to GIs covering spirits , and the negotiation process has now ended following last week’s “conclusive negotiation meeting”.

Under the new Spirit Drinks Regulation, a clearer labelling of spirit drinks is guaranteed across the EU, according to the Commission. The new rules will also facilitate the work of national enforcement authorities to ensure that consumers receive genuine products.

Spirit drinks registered as GIs, such as Cognac, Irish Cream, Genever, and Ouzo, will also be better protected against the registration of similar trademarks, the Commission said, and spirit GIs will also enjoy “enhanced protection” when used as ingredients.

The new legislation will also improve labelling rules related to spirits that are combined with other products.

Phil Hogan, commissioner for agriculture and rural development, said: “I am confident that the new Spirit Drinks Regulation, resulting from today’s negotiations, will provide for a legislative framework that meets the needs of the sector and will continue to support its continuing and substantial growth.”

spiritsEurope, a trade association representing the spirits sector in the EU, said the new law covers  more than 240 GI-protected spirits.

The association, which represents companies such as Bacardi and Rémy Cointreau, said the new rules have “positive and innovative elements”, including a mechanism which will allow fake GI-branded spirits in transit in the EU to be seized.

Ulrich Adam, director general of spiritsEurope, said: “The law is a central piece of legislation for the spirits sector, as it creates an effective, harmonised framework which protects consumers and producers alike.”

However, the association added that the European Council has “insisted” that the new law does not allow definitions of individual spirits to be updated.

The association said that this is likely to create “practical problems”, as changes may be necessary to respond to innovation or to address practical problems.

Despite this, Adam said: “The new legislative framework will support a sector that is among the EU’s largest and most valuable agri-food exporters and is driving the global reputation of Europe for high-quality products.”

The Commission said that the Parliament and the Council must formally endorse the agreement to enable it to come into law.

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Also last week, the Scotch Whisky Association announced that it had secured a GI covering Scotch whisky in Indonesia. More than 100 countries have officially recognised the drink as a Scottish product, with South Africa registering ‘Scotch whisky’ as a certification trademark in August.

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