13 February 2019 News

Brexit: what consequences on GIs?

On February 1st, AREPO participated in the "Stock Taking of Civil Dialogue Groups" organised by the European Commission, to brief all the organisations involved in the Civil Dialogue Groups of DG AGRI on the state of play of Brexit and the Commission preparedness activities in case of a "no deal" scenario.

One of the issues addressed has been how Brexit will affect Geographical Indications, considering both the United Kingdom leaving European Union with a withdrawal agreement and the possibility of a no-deal.

Under the Withdrawal Agreement, the existing EU-approved geographical indications will be legally protected until a new agreement applying to the stock of geographical indications is concluded in the context of the future relationship. The Agreement on geographical indications covers protected designation of origin, protected geographical indications, traditional specialities that are guaranteed and traditional terms for wine.

The United Kingdom will guarantee at least the same level of protection for the existing stock of those geographical indications that currently applies within the EU. This protection will be enforced through the necessary domestic UK legislation. All intellectual property rights will have to be protected by the UK as national intellectual property rights. The conversion of the EU right into a UK right for the purpose of protection across the Channel, will be automatic and free of cost.

Therefore, geographical indications from United Kingdom registered in the EU (e.g. Welsh Lamb) will continue to be protected in the EU.

Though the European Commission calling for an automatic recognition in the UK of EU-approved GIs after Brexit, uncertainty still remains in case of a withdrawal without a deal.

In a no-deal scenario the UK would no longer be required to recognise EU geographical indication status, so formerly registered EU PGIs and PDOs would cease to have such protection in the UK.

Particularly, when the UK will leave the EU it will be free to decide whether and how to protect geographical indications.  As the “No Deal Guidance” published on the website of UK government suggests, UK may choose to establish its own system for protecting geographical indications, broadly mirroring the current EU regime and complying with the WTO principles laid down in the TRIPS Agreement.  

The new UK scheme, with its own new UK GI logos, should maintain the same definitions and acronyms as the current EU GI scheme: Protected Designation of Origin (PDO); Protected Geographical Indication (PGI); Traditional Specialities Guaranteed (TSG). The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will be in charge of managing the schemes, maintaining the register of protected products and processing new applications.

All existing UK geographical indications recognised under the European Union quality schemes will automatically get UK GI status and will remain protected in the UK. On the contrary, producers of existing EU GIs from the 27 Member States, may need to apply to the relevant UK scheme to secure UK GI status, as well as producers of EU GIs registered after UK withdrawal from EU. Faced with such a prospect, it should be considered to apply for registering EU geographical indications as UK trade marks.