The Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN), of which IDFA is a founding member, was represented last month at the Worldwide Symposium on Geographical Indications (GIs) in Yangzhou, China. The biennial meeting brings together international experts to exchange ideas on the global use and impact of GIs.
Ambassador Allen Johnson, president of Allen F. Johnson & Associates and former chief agricultural negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, spoke on behalf of CCFN. He explained that current GI policies often lack safeguards for common food and beverage names, creating an increasingly disruptive situation in global trade that unfairly favors some producers over others.
Johnson called on the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the meeting organizer and lead organization examining global GI policies, to foster a broader dialogue on GI guidelines that would respect the rights of food producers to use common food names and comply with international trade commitments.
He stressed the negative commercial impact on companies when they are unable to use common names and their market access rights are unfairly restricted. He called for specific actions to help reduce trade disputes about GIs:
- All GIs should be required to go through a transparent application process in each country, identifying restriction requests upfront for compound terms and translations; and
- Nations should refuse to register as GIs any names that have become part of the public domain to uphold intellectual property safeguards and trade commitments. Instead, Johnson said compound terms such as "Greek Feta" or "Parmigiano Reggiano" could be retained while preserving use of the common name, such as feta and parmesan.
Johnson also noted that bilateral trade agreements between the European Union and other countries are placing unfair limits on the use of certain common names and raising questions about whether others will be targeted.
Johnson’s presentation is available on the WIPO website.
CCFN is an 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.
For more information, contact Beth Hughes, IDFA director of international affairs, at email@example.com.