Anti-counterfeiting accord compromises on European food names

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: International trade, European union

Delegates from 37 countries representing more than half the world’s trade have agreed an international anti-counterfeiting trade pact designed to protect against illegal copies of foods and other products.

The nearly finalized text of the anti-counterfeiting trade agreement (ACTA) follows talks in Tokyo earlier this month, which some US food manufacturers had feared could lead to American parmesan cheese, champagne or gorgonzola being seized as illicit goods by border controls.

The so-called ‘geographic indication’ of foods has caused headaches as the draft has been discussed over the past two years, with some in the European Union pushing for recognition of regional products like Italian Parmesan and Gorgonzola cheeses, and French Champagne. European representatives had been concerned that ACTA could undermine the European Protected Geographic Indication system, which within the EU protects such products from copies made outside of strictly defined zones.

Meanwhile, Washington had been worried that the agreement could disallow other countries’ versions of such products.

However, the finalized draft released late last week reached a compromise on the issue, referring to tolerance of existing rights in various countries.

It said that effective border enforcement should be conducted “in a manner that does not discriminate unreasonably between intellectual property rightsand avoids the creation of barriers to legitimate trade.”

The next step for the agreement is for all participating countries to submit it for consideration by their respective authorities.

A statement from all the negotiating parties said: “The participants agreed to work expeditiously to resolve the small number of outstanding issues that require further examination in capitals, with a view to finalizing the text of the agreement as promptly as possible.”

The agreement is largely intended to crack down on intellectual property (IP) right infringements, particularly in light of digital piracy and trade in counterfeit goods online.

The consolidated text is available online here​.

Related topics: Regulation

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