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USTR Report Emphasizes Importance of Preserving Common Food Names

May 3, 2023

NMPF’s efforts to protect the rights of dairy producers to use common names such as parmesan or feta were supported by the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) office in its April 26 report on international challenges to intellectual property rights.

In its annual Special 301 Intellectual Property Report, USTR highlighted several policy concerns that NMPF and USDEC raised in joint comments filed on Jan. 30, as well as in a separate filing by the Consortium for Common Names (CCFN), which NMPF’s trade policy team staffs.

The report describes in detail the European Union’s ongoing campaign to abuse and misuse geographical indication (GI) rules to confiscate generic food and beverage terms and prevent U.S. producers from selling certain common name foods in specific markets:

The EU GI system and strategy “adversely impact access for U.S. and other producers in the EU market and other markets by granting protection to terms that are considered in those markets to be the common name for products,” the report stated.  “The EU has granted GI protection to thousands of terms that now only certain EU producers can use in the EU market, and many of these producers then block the use of any term that even ‘evokes’ a GI.

“As part of its trade agreement negotiations, the EU pressures trading partners to prevent any producer, except from those in certain EU regions, from using certain product names, such as fontina, gorgonzola, parmesan, asiago, or feta. This is despite the fact that these terms are the common names for products produced in countries around the world.”

NMPF will continue to engage USTR and the rest of the administration to turn these concerns into concrete actions. The U.S. government has a full suite of tools at its disposal, including existing free trade agreements and upcoming trade negotiations, to establish firm and lasting market access protections with U.S. trading partners around the world.