June 19, 2008

Rising Number of Firms Willing to Play Name Game

A GROWING number of firms are applying to have their products protected from "imitators", partly driven by a resurgence in demand for authentic products which has raised the value of trade names.

The process can be lengthy - it took Melton Mowbray's pork pie producers ten years to win their legal battle despite massive publicity, including campaigners submitting a 10,000-signature petition to the government and public support from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

The first step is to contact Food From Britain, a market development consultancy commissioned by the government to increase exports of UK food and drink. Applications are assessed and examined by Defra and, if they are deemed suitable, will be forwarded to the EU for consideration.

The EU Protected Food Name Scheme identifies regional and traditional foods whose authenticity and origin can be guaranteed. Under this system, a named food or drink (separate arrangements exist for wines and spirits) registered at a European level will be given legal protection against imitation across the EU.

Products with protected name status fall into three categories:

Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). This is open to products produced, processed and prepared within a specific geographical area, and with features and characteristics attributable to that area. These include Orkney beef, Buxton blue cheese and Cornish clotted cream.

Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). Open to products produced or processed or prepared within a specific geographical area, and with features or qualities attributable to that area. These include Arbroath smokies, Teviotdale cheese and Worcestershire cider.

Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG). Open to products that are traditional or have customary names, and have features that distinguish them from other similar products. These features need not be attributable to the geographical area the product is produced in, nor entirely based on technical advances in production. For example, traditional farm-fresh turkey.

To obtain a designation, all producers must go through a rigorous application and verification process which can take up to 24 months.

All products registered under the three designations will be subject to inspection to ensure that the requirements of the registered specification are met.

All the designations require a precise product specification. This must include information about the method of production, including the origin, nature and characteristics of the raw materials.

Historical evidence linking the product to the geographical area or to substantiate the character of the product is also required.

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