ECJ on the protection of geographical indications of origin
As in the case of trade marks, it is similarly possible to protect geographical indications of origin (GIOs). A decision of the ECJ from 19 December 2018 shows that this protection can be extensive (Az.: C-367/17 S).
Consumers may associate GIOs with a certain quality. We at the commercial law firm GRP Rainer Rechtsanwälte note that it is therefore possible to protect them in a similar manner to trade marks.
The label „Schwarzwälder Schinken“, i.e. Black Forest ham, is a protected geographical designation. An organization submitted a request to the German Patent and Trade Mark Office to have this protection extended so that Schwarzwälder Schinken can only be sliced and packaged in the Black Forest to ensure its quality. The organization took action against a producer that had its ham produced in the Black Forest but further processed elsewhere. The dispute ultimately came before the ECJ.
The ECJ held that a prohibition on further processing outside of the area covered by a GIO can be justified if this is a necessary and proportionate measure to ensure the quality of the product or guarantee its origin. It went on to state that whether further processing the ham outside of the Black Forest potentially compromises its quality must now be ruled on by Germany“s Bundespatentgericht.
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