What protection is available?
Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) - This is for products that are closely linked to a certain geographical area. If protected, at least one of the stages of production, processing or preparation will have to take place in the specific area before the mark can be used on a product. Protection has been granted to products such as Yorkshire Wensleydale Cheese.
Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) - The PDO mark is available to products that are produced, processed and prepared in a specific area and have distinct characteristics from that area. Protection will only be granted if the product is made using distinct local knowledge. Where a PDO is granted, all three production stages have to take place in a specific area before the relevant name can be used. Protection has been granted to products such as Stilton Blue Cheese.
Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) - This mark does not necessarily relate to location. In order for a product to be protected with a TSG mark, it needs to have a traditional name and characteristics that make it different from other products. Protection has been granted to products such as traditional farm fresh turkey.
What does protection mean?
If one of the marks is granted to you, the name of your product is protected in certain classes. You will have to include the relevant EU logo on each product but you may be able to prevent other people from producing competing products with the same name.
The idea is that some products acquire special qualities simply by being produced in a specific place in a certain way. To use that place name or quality in the name of another product might imply that that product was made somewhere it wasn’t or has a quality or characteristic that it doesn’t.
How do I make an application?
Individual food producers can apply for protection or alternatively, the application can be made by a group of people including other producers or suppliers/distributors. A draft product specification needs to be submitted showing how the product might be made and including the product name.
If you are applying for a PDO or PGI mark, the name you use on your product must refer to the area you want to associate with it and it must be the name you are currently selling the product under.
You will be required to prove the origin of your product, including the raw materials used, and explain the link between the specific characteristics of the product and the area in question. This may not always be straightforward, for example in 2012, protection was refused in respect of Lincolnshire sausages as it was found that there wasn’t a strong enough local link.
The application should be sent to the relevant DEFRA department which will assess your application, which may then be published for national consultation and for interested parties to submit any objections. These objections will need to be addressed before your application can move on.
After DEFRA has approved your application and inspection results, you will need to produce a single document for them to send to the European Commission. Following examination, the document will be published in the EU official journal for consultation. Ultimately, if there are objections that cannot be resolved, the EU standing committee will have to make the final decision.
The whole process can take up to four years for protection to be granted but after protection is granted it will last indefinitely.