As we learned earlier, CETA includes provisions to protect geographical indicators. A geographical indicator is a product that has specific geographical origins as well as qualities and/or a reputation due to that origin. One example is Champagne, which is sparkling white wine originating from the Champagne region in France. Sparkling white whine can only be called Champagne if it originated from that region, any other sparkling white wine cannot be called Champagne.
The Wine and Spirits Agreement signed between Canada and the EU in 2003 established geographical indicator protections for alcoholic beverages, but CETA introduced geographical indicator protections for food items as well, leading to Canadian trademark laws being amended to protect geographical indicators over trademarks. An important distinction between trademarks and geographical indicators is that trademarks are used by businesses to distinguish their goods from competitors, while a geographical indicator is the recognized and legal regional origin of a certain product. This section will outline one example of the complications which arose from the new CETA provision.
Prosciutto di Parma is a type of Italian ham which under Italian law can only be produced in the Emilia-Romagna region. However, in Canada the meat producer Maple Leaf trademarked the term “Parma” in 1971 for its own Canadian version of Prosciutto. Since earlier trade deals between Canada and the EU did not call for protection of geographical indicators, Maple Leaf was allowed to do this. Once Italian producers started trying to sell Prosciutto di Parma in Canadian stores, they were sued by Maple Leaf for trademark infringement. This led to a long legal battle between Maple Leaf and Prosciutto di Parma producers. The case was suspended in 2010 after CETA negotiations began.
After CETA was provisionally applied in September 2017, Prosciutto di Parma producers were finally allowed to sell their products in Canada without being sued, since the name was now protected under the geographical indicators provision. This has caused issues for Maple Leaf though, since they can no longer own the trademark for Parma ham, and will now have to sell their own product as “Parma-style Prosciutto”.
This example shows how the geographical indicators provision of CETA can be directly beneficial to EU producers at the cost to Canadian producers which has sparked some debate over whether geographical indicators should be protected. Click HERE to view an activity on geographical indicators and CETA.
Source: The Globe and Mail, “A cured trademark dispute: After 20-year battle, Prosciutto di Parma name heads for Canadian shelves”