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U.S. Trade Representative Highlights Importance of Common Names Protection in Intellectual Property Report

April 26, 2023

The Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN), U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) and National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) expressed their appreciation today for the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) prioritization of the protection of common names in this year’s Special 301 Report. The organizations urged USTR to swiftly move forward with more assertive steps to preserve export access for food producers relying on common food and beverage terms.

Published annually, the report outlines global challenges related to intellectual property, which includes continued and escalating efforts from the European Union to abuse and misuse geographical indications (GI) to confiscate generic terms – such as “parmesan” or “bologna” – for its own producers.  This year’s report reflects several of the main areas of concern that CCFN detailed in comments submitted in January, with support from NMPF and USDEC.

“As USTR’s report clearly lays out, the EU’s aggressive common name confiscation campaign presents a significant threat to producers and exporters in the U.S. and elsewhere,” said Jaime Castaneda, executive director of CCFN. “Looking forward, it’s urgent that the Administration use its full suite of tools to protect the market access rights of producers using common food and beverage names.”

Restricting the right of producers to use common names is far more than just a labeling issue – it strips companies of the right to market products using the names that consumers know and love, takes products off shelves, and hurts workers up and down the supply chain.

“For far too long, the EU has abused GIs to erect trade barriers that prevent U.S. dairy from competing on a more level global playing field,” commented Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “The U.S. government has ample opportunities – including through existing bilateral trade engagement forums and upcoming trade negotiations – to fight back. We’ll be urging and supporting those efforts on behalf of American dairy farmers.”

“The U.S. dairy industry relies on exports to succeed, so when foreign government ban or restrict the use of common cheese names, it impacts companies, family farms, workers and the industry at large,” explained Krysta Harden, president and CEO of USDEC. “American-made dairy can compete with any products in the world. We thank USTR for acknowledging what a sizable problem this is for American producers and call on the Administration to stand up to unfair trade barriers so that our industry can go toe to toe with global competitors.”