What are geographical indications?
Geographical indications establish intellectual property rights protection for specific products, whose qualities are essentially linked to the area of production.
Product names can be granted a 'geographical indication' (GI) if they have a specific link to the place where they are made. The GI recognition enables consumers to trust and distinguish quality products while also helping producers to market their products better.
On the one hand, the EU has specific GI protection for wines, spirit drinks and other agricultural products and foodstuffs. Champagne or Prosciutto di Parma (ham) are well-known examples of agricultural GIs, a framework already in place since 1992.
On the other hand, there is currently no EU-wide GI protection for craft and industrial goods. Various laws exist in some EU countries that include regional or national regulations on specific crafts (e.g. ceramics), specific laws on a certain product (e.g. Solingen knives), or regional or national laws that protect all craft and industrial GI products (e.g. in France).
This results in varying levels of legal protection across Europe. Craft and industrial producers who wish to protect a GI in the EU need to file for protection in each country where it is available, or rely on other tools such as trade mark protection, litigation, or action via administrative authorities in case of unfair commercial practice or consumer deception.
Proposal to create a GI system for craft and industrial products
On 13 April 2022, the Commission adopted a proposal for a regulation on GIs for craft and industrial products to offer protection to products such as Murano glass, Donegal tweed, Porcelaine de Limoges, Solingen cutlery and Boleslawiec pottery. The proposal aims to enable producers to protect craft and industrial products and their traditional know-how in Europe and beyond.
The goal is to make it easier for consumers to recognise the quality of such products and make more informed choices. It aims to help to promote, attract and retain skills and jobs in Europe’s regions, contributing to their economic development. The proposal aims also to ensure that traditional craft and industrial products are finally put on an equal footing with protected geographical indications that already exist in the agricultural area.
The Commission, having carried out a robust impact assessment, has proposed the following measures, among others, to create the system for craft and industrial products
- establish an EU-wide protection for geographical indications of craft and industrial products allowing producers to protect the intellectual property rights of their products across the EU and act against fake products, including online
- enable straightforward and cost-efficient registration of GIs for craft and industrial products through a two-level application process
- allow full compatibility with international GI protection by enabling producers of registered craft and industrial GIs to protect their products in all countries that are signatories of the Geneva Act on Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications under the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), while enabling GIs from non-EU countries to access GI protection within the EU
- support the development of Europe’s rural and other regions by providing incentives for producers, especially micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), to invest into new authentic products and create niche markets; and regions, especially rural and less developed ones, to retain unique skills and benefit from the reputation of the new GIs including by attracting tourists
The Commission's proposal is the result of an extensive consultation process. It published an inception impact assessment in November 2020, followed by a public consultation between April and July 2021, as well as targeted consultations with EU countries and relevant stakeholder organisations.
How products are protected
As part of the EU’s system of intellectual property rights, names of products registered as GIs are legally protected against imitation and misuse within the EU and in non-EU countries where a specific protection agreement has been signed.
For craft and industrial products, each EU country’s competent national authorities will take the necessary measures to protect the registered names within their territory, in cooperation with the producers. They should also prevent and stop the unlawful production or marketing of products using such a name.
Non-European product names are protected in the EU if their country of origin has an international agreement to which the EU is also contracting party that includes the mutual protection of such names, or if they make an application that complies with the requirements of the regulation on geographical indications for craft and industrial products. Moreover, non-EU country GI applicants may also apply for GI protection under the regulation.
The proposal gives powers to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) to register geographical indications for craft and industrial products at Union and international level.
More information on geographical indications
Geographical indications for craft and industrial products
- Proposal for a regulation on Geographical Indications for craft and industrial products - documents
- Inception Impact Assessment of an EU-wide system for protecting the geographical indications of non-agricultural products
- Summary of the feedback to the Inception Impact Assessment of an EU-wide system for protecting the geographical indications of non-agricultural products
Geographical indications in other DGs
- Geographical indications and traditional specialties (products other than wines) from DG Agriculture and Rural Development
- Geographical indications for wine from DG Agriculture and Rural Development
- EU trade policy and geographical indications from DG Trade