A Taste Of... IP In The Food & Drink Industry

Published date18 February 2021
Subject MatterIntellectual Property, Trademark
Law FirmMarks & Clerk
AuthorMs Erika Coccia

Producers of food and drink can benefit from a wide array of intellectual property (IP) rights to protect their investment in developing and establishing distinctive brands, quality products as well as preserving their creative heritage.

Although standard trade marks remain the most widely-used IP tool in this sector, consumer interest around traceability and food safety, information about the provenance of food and drinks, and manufacturing processes has grown exponentially. Increased sophistication in consumers' behaviour shows that geographical indications, labels, collective marks, and certification marks offer a competitive edge to producers.

What are the options for businesses in the food and drink sector who want to protect their valuable IP?

Trade marks

Ordinary trade marks are signs typically affixed on goods or their packaging (or used in connection with services) to identify the commercial origin of a product or service from a single trader. Trade marks can be composed of words, designs, colours, sounds or the shape of goods or their packaging.

As of 1 January 2021 (marking the end of the Brexit transition period), producers of food and drink seeking trade mark protection in the UK as well as the EU27 Member States will be required to file two separate trade mark applications before the respective IP offices.

Geographical Indications

Geographical Indications (GIs) are protected names used to identify the characteristics, reputation, and quality of agricultural products, foodstuff, wines and spirits, which are attributable to their geographical origin, against misuse or imitation. Notable UK GIs include Stilton Blue Cheese, Welsh Lamb, Scotch Whiskey, and Irish Cream.

Under EU law, the name of the products with specific qualities as a result of its geographical origin can be given indefinite protection against imitation elsewhere in the EU. Individuals or groups of producers from EU Member States can apply for three different protection labels:

  • PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) - the most common form of protection in the UK: an agricultural foodstuff or product must have a reputation, characteristics or qualities as a result of its production, processing or preparation in a particular geographical area (e.g. Traditional Cumberland Sausage).
  • PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) - this has tighter requirements than the PGI: all three stages (production, processing and preparation) must take place in the designated area and the agricultural...

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