The dairy industry applauded leaders of the Senate and House Judiciary committees, the Senate Finance Committee, and the House Ways and Means Committee for expressing their “grave disappointment” over recently approved changes to the Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin which now allows for the registration of geographical indications—which the groups say will likely to severely limit the use of many generic food names in export markets.
In a letter to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), eight congressional leaders objected to an expansion of geographical indications protections that “will have significant negative ramifications for businesses world-wide that depend on the use of common or generic names or the integrity of established trademarks.” They also objected to a WIPO decision to force those harmed by the changes to help fund them.
“We urge you to take appropriate steps to rectify the funding situation and to implement the agreement in a fair and balanced way that adequately protects the interests of trademark owners and users of generic names,” the letter states. “We will continue to monitor closely these developments and other areas of WIPO's work to ensure that WIPO effectively functions as a global forum for the protection of intellectual property rights.”
Among those hurt by the changes are US dairy producers and processors that have relied for decades on well-established cheese names like parmesan and feta.
The letter also questioned whether the treaty provisions violated other international trade agreements.
"We are very concerned that parties to this agreement will implement it in a manner inconsistent with existing international trade obligations, including under the World Trade Organization's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of International Property Rights," it said.
Leaders of the National Milk Producers Federation, the U.S. Dairy Export Council, and the International Dairy Foods Association all praised the Congressional letter for strongly objecting to WIPO's actions.
"The deep concern expressed by the United States and many other WIPO members must be taken seriously not only by WIPO but by the World Trade Organization," said Jim Mulhern, NMPF president and CEO. "These eight congressional leaders are to be commended for objecting to an agreement that hamstrings many users of common or generic food names around the world."