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PDO and PGI, the intellectual property of the territory!

Pubblicato in Intellectual Property
da Matteo Saleri
Home > PDO and PGI, the intellectual property of the territory!

Among european countries, italy is the one with the highest number of pdo and pgi agri-food products.

In fact, in Italy, there are 823 PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) and PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) certified products. The majority of these products are wines (as many as 524!).

This is due to the outstanding quality of our products and the close connection between agro-food excellence and the territory of origin.

The climatic conditions of the Italian “boot” are certainly one of the factors that led to this achievement. They create a unique environmental context, thus influencing the properties of Italy’s natural resources and also the quality of our products.

In this article, we will explain what PDOs and PGIs are. We will also explore the legal framework of these protected names and how these geographical indications can be useful for operators in the agri-food sector.

If you would like individual consultancy on this topic, the first appointment is one of our dedicated services in the area of Intellectual Property. An initial consultation can also be given, by appointment, via video conference. For more information about the Law Firm or to contact us click here.

1. A new life for PDOs and PGIs

Since the lockdown, the consumer public’s attention towards the production of food and drink has considerably increased. Recent surveys show that 62% of consumers find it important for a food product to be typical, i.e. linked to a specific area. Also, 58% of them prefer to buy products from small local producers.

Bearing these data in mind, we can assume that the consumer public – whilst purchasing – is now accustomed to focus on the characteristics of the product. The quality of the offered product therefore acquires greater relevance. The reputation of the company marketing it, on the other hand, takes second place. Consequently, legal institutions such as trademarks, if considered as sole solutions, may not be sufficiently effective in capturing the consumer’s attention on their products.

In this regard, the proper use of geographical indications, such as PDOs and PGIs, can confer major commercial appeal to agri-food goods placed on the Italian market and, even more so, on the foreign market.

2. What are PDOs and PGIs?

Protected Designations of Origin and Protected Geographical Indications are, to all intents and purposes, “trademarks”. As opposed to trademarks, whose main function is to designate the entrepreneurial origin of the product, these names are intended to indicate the geographical origin.  They also convey to consumers that the marked agri-food product went through a specific production process in accordance with the relevant regulations.

Turning to regulatory definitions, a designation of origin is a name that identifies a product:

  1. which originates from a specific place, region or, in certain exceptional cases, country;
  2. whose quality or characteristics are essentially or exclusively due to a particular geographical environment and its inherent natural and human factors;
  3. whose production stages take place in the defined geographical area.

Italian products recognised as PDOs by the European Commission include Grana Padano, Prosciutto di Parma and Pecorino Sardo. For wine lovers, we point out that the definition of PDO includes the traditional Italian DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) and DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita).

A geographical indication is defined by law as a name identifying a product:

  1. originating from a particular place, region or country;
  2. to whose geographical origin a given quality, reputation or other characteristics are essentially attributable;
  3. at least one of whose stages of production takes place in the defined geographical area.

EU-recognised Italian PGIs include products such as Pomodoro Pachino, Cioccolato di Modica and Arancia Rossa di Sicilia. The Italian traditional term IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) used for wines is included in the group of PGIs.

3. Milieu: the bond between territory and product

Clearly, as can be seen from the definitions above, PDO and PGI require the presence of a distinctive bond between the labeled product and the environment. This specific connection of products with the territory, in legal terms the so-called milieu (from the French for “environment”), may be generated by two different factors:

  • Natural factors, i.e. those factors capable of influencing the qualities of agri-food products. They can be found in the composition of the soil and the presence of particular microclimates, the latitude of a certain location, the sun exposure of an area, the presence of particular air currents, etc;
  • The human factors to which the established and known traditions of production and manufacture must be traced, in which specialised artisan labour is prominent.

While in PDO the bond with the territory is closer (so-called “first level”), for PGIs this relationship is less stringent (so-called “second level”). As a matter of fact, for the production of PGI goods it is only required that one of its phases takes place within the delimited geographical area.

4. What are the functions of PDOs and PGIs?

The regulation of PDOs and PGIs is aimed at helping producers to communicate to consumers the peculiarities of their products. They inform buyers of the geographical origin and production methods of goods placed on the market.

Proper use of these names also ensures fair competition, the availability of reliable information for consumers and respect for intellectual property. Unlike trademarks, the regulations governing PDOs and PGIs do not provide for any kind of exclusive right on the use of these names in the hands of a single party. As a matter of fact, these latter signs have no formal owner.

Figuratively speaking, the owner of these “intellectual property rights” would be the Territory itself!

PDOs and PGIs must therefore be available to any operator marketing a product that complies with the relevant production regulations. The regulations, precisely, set out the boundaries of the geographical area and the methods to be followed to obtain the product that can be labelled with the protected name.

5. Accreditation procedure

As with trademark registration, an administrative procedure must be followed when applying for accreditation of new PDO or PGI products. Both geographical indications share the same procedure.

This procedure consists of two phases:

  • a national phase at the Italian Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies and;
  • a subsequent Community phase before the European Commission.

The party entitled to submit an application for registration for a PDO or PGI is a group made up of producers and/or processors falling within a delimited territory and dealing with the same product that is the subject of registration. Under certain conditions, however, even a single producer can apply for recognition of the geographical indication.

Please note, not all agri-food products can be the subject of an application for recognition. In the application for registration to be submitted to the Italian Ministry, it is required to include a historical report proving production for at least 25 years as well as the established use (in trade and language) of the name for which registration is requested.

Therefore, only products with a “production history” of a certain importance can hope to be recognised and, therefore, protected.

6. Legal protection for your excellence!

Addressing the need to ensure adequate protection for geographical indications, the European legislator has issued several regulations. Among the most important are those on agricultural products and food ( EU Reg. No. 1151/2012), wines (EU Reg. No. 1308/2013) and spirits (EU Reg. 787/2019). In order to establish mechanisms to safeguard protected names, special control authorities are set up, many of which are identified in cooperatives (Consorzi, in Italian).

Sanctions are prescribed for those who violate the rules, including the prohibition of production and marketing of the goods and compensation for damages. Misleading conduct is also prohibited under the Consumer Code (in particular, Articles 20 and 21).

The Canella Camaiora Law Firm provides consultancy to businesses operating in the food and wine sector. More specifically, we provide

An individual consultation on this topic is one of our dedicated services in the area of Intellectual Property. An initial consultation can also be given, by appointment, via video conference. For more information about the Law Firm or to contact us click here.

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Data di pubblicazione: 2 September 2020
Matteo Saleri

Matteo Saleri

Laureato a pieni voti presso l'Università degli Studi di Milano, praticante avvocato appassionato di Diritto Commerciale, Societario e Antitrust.
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