Marketers of food products, take note: a swath of European locales will soon be restricted from being used in certain food product names. The new restrictions are requirements of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), the full text of which was released on Sept. 24, 2014. While ratification is not expected until 2015 or 2016, it is never too early to prepare for the potential effects of CETA on product marketing and advertising.
While CETA covers a broad spectrum of trade issues, one of the more important effects of CETA for food and beverage advertisers will be the significant increase in protection for European geographical indications in Canada. Geographical indications, as defined under CETA, are terms that identify an agricultural product or foodstuff as originating in a region or locality where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the product is essentially attributable to its geographical origin. Canada currently only protects geographical indications for wines and spirits through the Trademarks Act. Protection for geographical indications for other products is available only through the registration of certification marks by interested parties. However, under CETA, Canada will be required to protect more than 170 additional geographical indications for foods and agricultural products, including various cheeses, spices, beers, and cured meats.
Specifically, CETA requires Canada to provide the legal means to prevent the use of any geographical indication specified under CETA in association with that indication’s product class. Trademark registrations including the geographical indication must also be refused if they are made in respect of that indication’s product class. However, existing trademarks are exempted from the new required protections for geographical indications.
Fortunately for Canadian companies, there are some exceptions to the geographical indication requirements. For example, the names Asiago, Feta, Fontina, Gorgonzola, and Munster can still be used with respect to cheeses if accompanied by expressions such as “kind”, “type”, “style”, or “imitation”. Additionally, these cheese names can be used without such expressions by any person who made commercial use of them prior to Oct. 18, 2013. Certain translations in English and French of protected geographical indications may also still be used, such as Bavarian beer, Black Forest Ham, and Valencia oranges.
It should be noted that CETA also requires that both Canada and the European Union prohibit any person from manufacturing, preparing, packaging, labelling, selling or importing or advertising a food commodity in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive or is likely to create an erroneous impression regarding its origin. This may restrict marketers from including place names in product identities even where the place name is not otherwise covered under CETA.
It remains to be seen how the requirements of CETA will be interpreted and implemented into Canadian law. For now, however, marketers should be aware that their ability to refer to new products using European geographic indications may soon be limited.
For the full list of protected geographical origins, please see click here.