Representatives of the Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) were in Geneva last week for the General Assembly meeting of the 2014 World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). They voiced concern about current proposals to expand the Lisbon Agreement, an international system for geographical indications (GIs) that threatens to severely impede the global use of common names for many cheeses, meats, beverages and other foods.
The meeting preceded a more specific discussion of WIPO's Lisbon Agreement proposal that will be held later this month by the countries that have signed on to the agreement and other interested observers.
CCFN, of which IDFA is a founding member, is one of the few organizations to whom WIPO has granted "observer status" in the Lisbon Agreement Working Group. With this status, CCFN is allowed to make comments during the upcoming October proceedings. Officials from the U.S., Australian and New Zealand governments are among the other observers, and they also oppose the approach to the Lisbon Agreement now under discussion.
CCFN believes the agreement as currently drafted is overly broad and vague, and would not safeguard common food names used by countless food producers around the globe. Expansion of the Lisbon Agreement also poses a high risk of violating existing trade commitments and posing significant economic costs on many nations, the coalition said.
The Lisbon Agreement, first activated in 1966, is a voluntary system where countries within the pact add names that they would like protected to a general list, and other nations agree to protect those names. Only about 30 nations, the majority from Europe, have signed on.
To date, the agreement has not dramatically impacted global trade due to its relatively limited membership and product scope. However, the proposed revisions to the program, which the WIPO group would like to finalize this month, would seek to dramatically expand the registration of common names, as illegitimate GIs, across many more countries.
Because these restrictions on the use of registered names automatically kick in after a year, the revised Lisbon Agreement could cause immediate, multiple trade issues around the world concerning the protection of common food names, potentially leading to new restrictions on sales of generically named products in dozens of countries.
The Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) is an independent, international non-profit alliance whose goal is to work with leaders in agriculture, trade and intellectual property rights to foster the adoption of high standards and model geographical indication guidelines throughout the world