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CCFN Wraps Up Busy Year Fighting for Rights to Common Food Names

January 5, 2018

The Consortium for Common Food Names’ (CCFN) work to protect common food names and safeguard global sales opportunities for cheeses finished the year with a flurry of important activity in key markets.

In early December, CCFN, founded by NMPF and the U.S. Dairy Export Council, submitted detailed filings to all four Mercosur countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) opposing EU geographical indications (GIs) that would restrict the use of common food names. Mercosur and the European Union (EU) are nearing the end of free trade agreement negotiations, and the EU has been pushing hard to persuade Mercosur to provide them exclusive rights for hundreds of GIs. CCFN has worked extensively with local industry allies in Mercosur countries and through direct submission such as these filings to preserve market access rights for all in that major dairy region of the world.

Also last month, Japan announced the results of its own GI review process, in which CCFN, NMPF  and USDEC were heavily engaged last year. As part of its free trade agreement with the EU, Japan announced its plans to register a lengthy list of GIs, but assured that many terms the EU had sought to monopolize would remain available for use by all, including parmesan, romano, provolone and others. CCFN will continue to work with Japan with the goal of ensuring that companies that have marketed common terms in Japan can keep using them moving forward, such as feta and asiago.

Also in December, efforts to conclude the EU-Mexico free trade negotiations stalled, and here again the EU’s bullying efforts on GIs was a major factor. As with Japan and Mercosur, the EU is seeking to persuade Mexico to restrict a host of common names as part of a GI registration process. CCFN has aggressively battled this EU effort to erase NAFTA market access rights, and that work continued with intense negotiations in mid-December that aimed to conclude the agreement. Talks will continue this year with a final few issues remaining – GIs among them – and NMPF will remain actively engaged in fighting to maintain Mexican consumers’ access to U.S. products.

These and other priority areas in the battle to preserve common name use and market opportunities for U.S. companies were among those NMPF discussed with U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) attachés at a USPTO roundtable event in mid-December. NMPF conveyed the high stakes of this issue and updated attendees on CCFN’s global activities – many of which were conducted in conjunction with a number of those foreign-posted USPTO attaches last year. This strong partnership with U.S. government officials remains vital to CCFN success given recent EU efforts.