Consorzio Del Formaggio Parmigiano Reggiano (Applicant), the consortium for Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, applied to register ‘Parmigiano Reggiano’ as a geographical indication (GI) in Singapore under Application No. 50201900057U.

During the opposition period, the U.S. Dairy Export Council (Opponent) sought an extension of time to file its notice of opposition and supporting evidence. However, this request for an extension of time was refused and the Applicant’s GI proceeded to registration on 22 June 2019 ([2019] SGIPOS 12 – Interlocutory Hearing for Geographical Indication No. 50201900057U).

Summary of Decision

The Opponent’s request for an extension of time was based on fairly standard grounds, namely:

  1. The opponent was recently made aware of the publication of the Applicant’s GI;
  2. The agent had just been appointed and required more time to take instructions;
  3. More time was needed to prepare evidence.

In response, the Registrar expressed preliminary views that the Opponent ‘failed to show a good and sufficient reason for the extension’. Notwithstanding these indications, the Opponent elected to proceed with a hearing and did not file the relevant documents before the close of the opposition period.

At the hearing, the Registrar stated that whether ‘good and sufficient reason’ has been established depends on the facts of each case. In this regard, it was important to note that Singapore GI’s legislation had been enacted to fulfil obligations under the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA).

In anticipation of the EUSFTA coming into force, a list of key EU GIs had been published as early as January 2013, and included the Applicant’s GI. The Opponent also participated in a public consultation. Accordingly, the Registrar found that the Opponent had notice of the Applicant’s impending application and ample time to prepare for a potential opposition. The Registrar also stated that allowing an extension of time may delay the implementation of the EUSFTA and the corresponding benefits for Singapore businesses. These included the removal of certain barriers to trade and stronger border enforcement measures.

In light of these factors, the Registrar held that ‘good and sufficient reason’ for the extension of time had not been established, and the request was refused. Further, the Opponent had not provided any indications as to the basis of its proposed opposition. It was also noted that the Opponent did not object to the Applicant’s GI per se, but to the common name ‘Parmesan’. However, Singapore’s GI legislation provides that objection to a possible translation of a GI is not a ground for refusal. Hence, the opposition would have failed even if allowed to proceed.

Key Takeaways

As the first reported decision in Singapore on a GI opposition, this case emphasises the particular circumstances shaping Singapore’s GI regime. Seemingly straightforward applications also have to be considered in the context of these wider policy implications.

This update was first published in Vol. 74 No. 21 of the INTA Bulletin.