U.S. Statement on EU GI regulation

U.S. complaint against European Communities regulation on geographical indications

On April 19, 2005, the World Trade Organization’s Dispute Settlement Body (WTO-DSB) ruled in favor of the United States in a case brought against the European Communities (EC). It found that an EC regulation on food-related geographical indications (GIs), EC Regulation 2081/92, was inconsistent with the EC's obligations under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (or GATT, the predecessor to the World Trade Organization).

The 2005 ruling was the result of a long-standing complaint by the United States that the EC’s GI system discriminated against foreign products and persons—notably by requiring that EC trading partners adopt an EC-style system of GI protection—and provided insufficient protections to trademark owners.

In the report adopted by the DSB, the WTO panel agreed that the EC's GI regulation impermissibly discriminated against non-EC products and persons. The panel also agreed with the United States that Europe could not, consistent with WTO rules, deny U.S. trademark owners their rights. The panel found that, under the EC regulation, any exceptions to trademark rights for the use of registered GIs were narrow, and limited to the actual GI name as registered. The panel recommended that the EC amend its GI regulation to bring it into compliance with its WTO obligations.