The European Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) has launched a report on the infringement of Geographical Indications (GIs) in the EU. In order for a product to be protected as a GI, which is essentially a symbol of quality within the EU, it must come from a particular place and possess a specific quality, reputation or other characteristic attributable to that defined geographic area. The product must also be produced within that particular determined area. Once a product is designated as a GI, it provides protection against producers from outside the area producing similar goods and labelling them with the particular name protected.

The main objective of the report conducted by the EUIPO is to assess both the size and value of the EU GI market for wine, spirits, agricultural products and foodstuffs and the proportion of products in that market that infringe protected GIs in the EU. It was found that the value of GI infringing products in the EU was approximately €4.3 billion in 2014, resulting in an estimated consumer loss of up to €2.3 billion where consumers believed they were buying a genuine GI product.

The study clearly indicates that the issue of infringement of GIs in the EU can have a significant adverse impact. The EUIPO has directed that further research be conducted into the international aspect of the infringement of EU GIs outside the EU in order to expand the scope of the report to incorporate infringements at a worldwide level.

Ireland has a number of well-known products which have been granted GI status, including Connemara Hill Lamb, Clare Island Salmon and the Waterford Blaa (as previously reported here). More recently, applications for “Oriel Sea Salt” and “Oriel Sea Minerals”, both of which are names given to sea salt and sea mineral salts harvested from the bay of Port Oriel in County Louth, were forwarded to the European Commission for review by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The application has since been published in the official journal of the EU and is on course to be granted GI status.