Registration of Kalamata Olives as Intellectual Property Renews Controversy in Greece

The registration of the Kalamata table olive PDO from Messenia with WIPO will restrict the term's use by table olive producers in Greece, re-igniting an ongoing debate.
Kalamata olives
By Costas Vasilopoulos
Mar. 19, 2024 21:31 UTC

Kalamata table olives with a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) have received inter­na­tional prop­erty pro­tec­tion after being reg­is­tered with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) under their Greek name, Elia Kalamatas.

Kalamata PDO table olives come from the indige­nous Greek Kalamon cul­ti­var pro­duced in the Messenia pre­fec­ture in south­ern Peloponnese.

WIPO, a legally bind­ing inter­na­tional reg­is­ter for Appellations of Origin (AOs) and Geographical Indications (GIs), will pro­tect Kalamata PDO table olives from imi­ta­tions and coun­ter­feit­ing in 76 coun­tries world­wide.

See Also:Europe Strengthens Protections for Geographical Indications

Kalamata olives from Messenia also bear a pro­tected geo­graph­i­cal indi­ca­tor from the European Union since 1996.

We unwa­ver­ingly con­tinue our efforts to defend and pro­tect the world-famous Protected Designation of Origin despite those who try by all means to abol­ish it,” the Messenia Union of Agricultural Associations, which ini­ti­ated and mon­i­tored the WIPO appli­ca­tion for Kalamata olives, said in a state­ment.

We empower and invest in iconic PDO appel­la­tions with vision, plan, sci­en­tific intel­li­gence and seri­ous­ness,” they added.

However, the Greek National Interprofessional Association of Table Olives (Doepel) con­tra­dicted the union’s state­ment, say­ing it was inac­cu­rate and raised sus­pi­cions.

It is clear, as we have stressed many times, that no one opposes or tries to abol­ish the Elia Kalamatas PDO,” the inter­pro­fes­sional said. However, it should be noted that the [Kalamata table olive PDO] exhibits no export poten­tial what­so­ever. In par­tic­u­lar, the largest quan­tity exported since 1996… has not exceeded 247 tons — 0.30 per­cent of Greek exports of the Kalamon/Kalamata vari­ety.”

The dis­pute between the Messenia Union and the national inter­pro­fes­sional shows that the cov­eted Kalamata appel­la­tion, which con­fers world­wide recog­ni­tion to the prod­uct, con­tin­ues to divide the Greek table olive sec­tor.

Producers of Kalamon olives based in Messenia claim that the Kalamata name des­ig­nates a PDO prod­uct and should be reserved only for olives pro­duced in the region.

Kalamon pro­duc­ers in other regions argue that the Kalamata name should be used freely through­out Greece since the olives come from the same cul­ti­var.

The Greek state and the country’s supreme court have also been drawn into the dis­pute, under­scor­ing the chasm between pro­duc­ers.

In September 2022, the Greek gov­ern­ment issued a min­is­te­r­ial decree allow­ing all pro­duc­ers of Kalamon table olives in the coun­try to use the Kalamata brand name.

The 2022 deci­sion to re-reg­is­ter Kalamata olives on the national list of plant vari­eties, allow­ing pro­duc­ers across Greece to use the name, was an effort to reverse a supreme court deci­sion that over­turned the 2018 min­is­te­r­ial decree that ini­tially reg­is­tered Kalamata olives on the list.

The free­ing of the Kalamata brand name sig­nif­i­cantly boosted exports of Kalamon olives from Greece, mar­keted as Kalamata or Kalamata PDO for those pro­duced in Messenia, meet­ing the PDO require­ments.

However, it enabled olive pro­duc­ers in other coun­tries to pro­mote their Kalamon olives as Kalamata, directly com­pet­ing with Greek pro­duc­ers.

The Messenian table olive pro­duc­ers have again appealed the 2022 min­is­te­r­ial decree to the Greek Council of State, and the Supreme Court’s deci­sion is still pend­ing.

In boun­ti­ful years, Kalamon/Kalamata olives pro­duc­tion in Greece can exceed 100,000 tons. Around 80 per­cent of pro­duc­tion is des­tined for export to inter­na­tional mar­kets with an export value of more than €200 mil­lion.


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