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Recent Developments in UK and EU Protection Schemes for Geographical Indications

On 12 September 2023, the EU IPO announced that the European Parliament approved a new set of Regulations which allow craft and industrial products to be protected using similar rules to those covering Protected Geographical Indications (“PGIs”) for foods and drinks.

Existing EU PGI Registers

The EU already operates European Union-wide Registers of PGIs for agricultural products and foodstuffs, wines and spirit drinks produced in its Member States, all accessible via the European Commission’s online Register eAmbrosia. These include famous food and drink indications such as ‘Proscuitto di Parma’ and ‘Champagne’. Once a product is listed on a PGI Register it is treated as an intellectual property right and its use is controlled by enforcement agencies in a number of ways. For example, products imported into the EU which are labelled with a PGI but do not meet the criteria set out in its registration can be seized by customs authorities.

In May 2023, the European Council of Ministers and the European Parliament agreed to create a new Regulation governing craft and industrial products. This was originally proposed in April 2022 in a report identifying the gap in protection between existing PGIs at EU level and the various national schemes protecting names of craft and industrial products.

The revised PGI scheme for craft and industrial products will operate on the same basis as the EU’s existing PGI scheme, where specifications for the named product must be drawn up and submitted to the relevant Register for the GI to be accepted. The scheme is intended to make protection for such products more accessible where they are typically produced by micro, small or medium sized enterprises which may lack the resources to develop new product specifications1.

The Council of Ministers must now approve the Regulation, which is envisaged as a two-stage process where applications for protection are made to Member States which agree to participate in the scheme, and then examined by the EU IPO. The scheme is likely to begin operating two years after the approval of its Regulation by the Council of Ministers.

The UK schemes post-Brexit

Prior to the UK’s exit from the European Union, a PGI granted in one of the existing EU Registers was enforceable by the relevant national agencies (such as HMRC) in the UK. The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) now operates equivalent GB Registers for the UK’s protected food and drinks schemes created to replace the EU PGI schemes no longer in effect.

Any PGI protected in the EU on 31 December 2020 was added to the equivalent UK Register operated by DEFRA. In addition, the UK has agreed to protect certain names of American viticultural areas and US spirit drink names of origin on these Registers.

Since then, further applications for new UK protected food and drinks names have been made directly to DEFRA. A recent example of a newly-granted GI under the UK scheme is Single Malt Welsh whisky, which became the first new UK spirit drink application to be protected under the scheme on 24 July 2023 after high-profile distilleries in Wales, such as ‘Aber Falls’ and ‘Penderyn’, collaborated to draw up a specification for the GI.

It remains to be seen whether the UK will now follow the EU in creating a separate GI scheme for craft and industrial products, and if so, which government department will administer this scheme, if not DEFRA.

Other forms of protection for product names

The UK and EU’s GI schemes overlap with protection afforded by trade mark rights, specifically Certification and Collective marks, as acknowledged by the European Commission in its proposed new GI registrations of April 2022. These can be registered as trade marks before the UK IPO or EU IPO.

A Certification mark indicates that the goods or services in connection with which it is used are certified by the proprietor of the mark, in respect of origin, material, mode of manufacture of goods or performance of services. In the context of food and drink, for example, certification marks are owned by several industry bodies administering standards, such as Assured Food Standards’ registration for its RED TRACTOR logo.

Should you require advice on obtaining protection for geographical indications in the UK or EU, and on collective or certification trade marks, please contact a member of the J A Kemp trade marks team.


  1. Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on geographical indication protection for craft and industrial products and amending Regulations (EU) 2017/1001 and (EU) 2019/1753 of the European Parliament and of the Council and Council Decision (EU) 2019/1754, 13 April 2022