Dundee cake, famous at home and abroad for its characteristic covering of blanched almonds, is set to apply for special protection from the European Commission. If successful, only cake mixed, baked and decorated with almonds in Dundee will be allowed to use the name.

The Scottish Government and the Scottish Rural College are working with producers of Dundee cake and experts from Abertay University in preparation to make an application to the European Commission for Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) under the EU’s Protected Food Name scheme.

The first part of the application involves agreeing on a definition of Dundee cake according to precise specifications. Once this is decided, it allows the application to outline the raw materials and volumes that must be used to make Dundee cake.

When the application is ready, it will be put to a national consultation before it is submitted to the European Commission for consideration. The Commission usually takes around two years to approve the application but changes to the regulations this year aim to have approval granted in under a year.

The EU Protected Food Names scheme

The aim is to highlight regional and traditional foods whose origin and authenticity can be guaranteed. The PGI is one of three marks that can be applied for, along with Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG). Under the scheme a registered food or drink will be given legal protection against imitation throughout the EU.

This protection is important both economically and culturally. It can benefit producers of famous Scottish brands by providing them with recognition and protection from imitation. Other foods to have been granted protected status include Stornoway black pudding and the Arbroath smokie. They can also support development by promoting new job opportunities in production, processing and other connected services. As well as protecting the producers, the PGI will allow consumers to be sure that anything called Dundee cake will be authentic.

These geographical indications are becoming a useful intellectual property right. They are different from the more traditional ones like copyright in that there is no ‘owner’ of the right. Anyone who complies with the specification can use the name and can sue to prevent abuse. Although there is no legislation setting out penalties from infringement, the House of Lords has made it clear that this protection is enforceable.