Authors: Kristina Vilkiene, Assistant Attorney-at-Law in METIDA, Reda Zaboliene, Managing Partner, Attorney-at-Law, Patent Attorney in METIDA
Which designations of origin could be protected?
Agricultural products and foodstuffs having authentic origin may be eligible to use a protected designation of origin, a protected geographical indication and to be recognised as traditional specialities guaranteed.
What would be the intention of such protection and what is the difference between these three categories?
All of these three different categories of protected names were created with the same target in mind, as they were all designed to maintain the promotion of the production of various agricultural goods, to protect names of the products from inappropriate use, imitation and to inform consumers with the specific characteristics of products.
- A protected designation of origin may be used as a designation for an agricultural product and foodstuff whose production, processing and preparation take place within a determined geographical area using traditionally recognised technologies.
- A protected geographical indication may be used as a description of an agricultural product or foodstuff if it has a strong connection with an area, which name it bears, and if at least one of the stages of production has taken place in the defined area.
- The traditional speciality guaranteed is used for agricultural product or a foodstuff, which consists of traditional ingredients or has been traditionally manufactured.
The principles and the whole system of the protection of products with the authentic origin are laid down in the Council Regulation on the Protection of Geographical Indications and Designations of Origin for Agricultural Products and Foodstuffs (No 510/2006). France, Italy and Spain are the leaders in terms of the number of applications regarding geographical indications and designations of origin, but Lithuanian companies are also becoming more and more active in seeking for such type of protection for their agricultural goods.
Protected Lithuanian products:
The honey of Sejny/Lazdijai (‘Seinu/Lazdijų krašto medus’/ ‘Miód z Sejneńszczyny/Łoździejszczyzny’) entered in the register of protected geographical indications (common Lithuanian and Polish application)
But what makes the region where this honey is produced special?
The honey of Sejny/Lazdijai (‘Seinu/Lazdiju krasto medus’/ ‘Miód z Sejneńszczyny/Łoździejszczyzny’) is produced in the area which is situated in the Neman river basin on the border between Poland and Lithuania, in the Eastern Suwałki Lake District mesoregion. The honey which is produced in Poland is called ‘Miód z Sejneńszczyny’ and the one which is produced in Lithuania is named as ‘Lazdijų krašto medus’, but these two areas are considered as one region, since the honey is collected using the same methods.
The regulation for protected geographical indications contains the exact description of a territory together with its elderships and counties, where the collected honey could obtain such indications. All of the production stages, from the positioning of beehives till the packaging of honey, must take place in the indicated region. Due to the very short vegetation period, the honey might be collected within the term of three months only – from mid-May to mid-August.
They honey protected differs from other kinds of honey by low humidity, high density, strong aroma, slightly bitter taste and low amount of one kind of pollens.
There are other Lithuanian products that seek to obtain the description of protected geographical indications. For example, the registration of this type of protection of such products as cheese ‘Liliputas’, Lithuanian pressed cottage cheese, Lithuanian mead ‘Stakliskes’ appears to be expected to be approved by the European Commission. Also, ‘Daujenu’ homemade bread has been granted recently with such protection by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Lithuanian sausage ‘Skilandis’ is recognised as traditional speciality guaranteed. Another product, Samogitian sour cream butter ‘Kastinys’ is also expected to obtain such type of protection. An agricultural product could be recognised as a traditional speciality guaranteed if it differs from other goods of the same type in terms of authentic production and traditional raw materials used. These foodstuffs can be produced by any companies if their goods meet the descriptions and specifications of traditional specialities guaranteed.
As for protected designation of origin, none of the Lithuanian companies has ever received such protection. Registration of protected designation of origin provides more burdensome requirements as a very strong link is necessary between the geographical origin of the product and its quality – raw materials must be obtained in this particular geographical area, quality and characteristics of the product shall be determined by local human factors (traditions) and climate of the defined territory. This is obviously not the case with products protected with geographical indications as their raw materials do not need to be obtained from the indicated region.
Products granted with a protected geographical indication in the EU can also be protected in some other non-member states which signed related contracts with the EU. For instance, in March 2012, Georgia signed the treaty with the EU on the protection of agricultural products and foodstuffs with geographical indications, meaning that country’s products are able to get such protection in the EU and vice versa.