Greece Registers Four PDO and PGI Olive Oils as Intellectual Property

The Greek extra virgin olive oils were registered with an international organization that protects the product from imitation and counterfeiters in 56 countries.

Koroneiki olives
Feb. 28, 2022
By Paolo DeAndreis
Koroneiki olives

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Four Greek extra vir­gin olive oils with pro­tected geo­graph­i­cal indi­ca­tors from the European Union have received inter­na­tional intel­lec­tual prop­erty pro­tec­tion.

Kalamata PDO, Sitia Lasithiou Crete PDO, Kolymvari Chania Crete PDO and Lakonia PGI have been reg­is­tered with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

This legal com­mit­ment taken by the con­tract­ing par­ties, most of them not belong­ing in the E.U., means that PDO and PGI prod­ucts are under a tough sys­tem of pro­tec­tion even out­side the E.U.- George Okinomou and Vasiliki Bakali, gen­eral direc­tor and lawyer of Sevitel

Protected Designation of Origins (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indications (PGI) are two European Union-wide cer­ti­fi­ca­tions that pro­tect tra­di­tion­ally-pro­duced spe­cial­ties from par­tic­u­lar regions.

According to Sevitel, the asso­ci­a­tion of the Greek olive oil indus­try, which was the dri­ving force behind the ini­tia­tive, the WIPO umbrella will fur­ther pro­tect the oils from coun­ter­feit­ing, imi­ta­tion and other uncom­pet­i­tive prac­tices.

See Also:Pressure Mounts in Greece to Settle Dispute Over Kalamata Appellation

Once they have been reg­is­tered by WIPO, PDO and PGI prod­ucts are fully pro­tected by all con­tract­ing par­ties, cov­er­ing up to 56 coun­tries,” George Okinomou, Sevitel’s gen­eral direc­tor, and Vasiliki Bakali, Sevitel’s lawyer, told Olive Oil Times.

Contracting par­ties to the Geneva Act [which allows the inter­na­tional reg­is­tra­tion of geo­graph­i­cal indi­ca­tions] must pro­vide legal means to pre­vent the use of an inter­na­tion­ally reg­is­tered appel­la­tion of ori­gin or geo­graph­i­cal indi­ca­tion in respect of goods of the same kind, or goods that are not of the same kind,” they added.

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They must also pro­vide legal means to pre­vent any use amount­ing to the imi­ta­tion of an appel­la­tion of ori­gin or geo­graph­i­cal indi­ca­tion,” Okinomou and Bakali con­tin­ued.

Preventing the coun­ter­feit­ing of PDO and PGI prod­ucts is a global chal­lenge, and European and inter­na­tional insti­tu­tions rou­tinely pros­e­cute offend­ers.

An anti-fraud oper­a­tion led by Europol and Interpol in 57 coun­tries in 2016 uncov­ered more than 11,000 tons of coun­ter­feit goods, includ­ing large quan­ti­ties of oil, labeled as extra vir­gin,” which had been inten­tion­ally mis­la­beled or adul­ter­ated to appear gen­uine.

In 2018, a sim­i­lar inves­ti­ga­tion in 36 coun­tries on four con­ti­nents dis­man­tled entire net­works of coun­ter­feit goods pro­duc­tion. In that same year, another inter­na­tional oper­a­tion uncov­ered almost 10,000 tons of coun­ter­feit prod­ucts in 61 coun­tries, includ­ing a large vol­ume of olive oil.

According to the Italian gov­ern­ment, coun­ter­feit foods are smug­gled glob­ally by mod­i­fy­ing the orig­i­nal con­tents of food or by mar­ket­ing prod­ucts whose appear­ance closely resem­bles the authen­tic cer­ti­fied prod­ucts, with names and titles that might appear legit­i­mate.

The Italian farm­ers asso­ci­a­tion, Coldiretti, esti­mates the global mar­ket’s value for coun­ter­feit Italian food at €100 bil­lion.

This legal com­mit­ment taken by the con­tract­ing par­ties, most of them not belong­ing in the E.U., means that PDO and PGI prod­ucts are under a tough sys­tem of pro­tec­tion even out­side the E.U.,” Oikonomou and Bakali said. If not pro­tected, the value of such prod­ucts can be eroded and con­sumers short-changed.”

The need for such improved pro­tec­tion is enhanced by the crit­i­cal role of PDO and PGI prod­ucts for the Greek econ­omy and in the coun­try’s renowned food pro­duc­tion tra­di­tions.

According to the Greek Ministry of Rural Development and Food, 31 Greek extra vir­gin olive oils have PDO or PGI cer­ti­fi­ca­tions.

PDOs and PGIs are worth pro­tect­ing not only because of their con­nec­tion to qual­ity, tra­di­tion and rep­u­ta­tion; they also make a very valu­able con­tri­bu­tion to sus­tain­able rural devel­op­ment,” Oikonomou and Bakali said.

In fact, for the pro­duc­ers, the exclu­sive right to use a prod­uct name leads to a higher price than for sim­i­lar prod­ucts in the same food cat­e­gory,” they added.

According to Oikonomou and Bakali, the European Union has been doing great work through the years to estab­lish both a sys­tem of effec­tive processes to rec­og­nize and pro­tect local prod­ucts and pro­mote them in third coun­tries.”

Were it not for the coor­di­nated acts of the E.U., we might not speak now about PDO or PGI prod­ucts,” they added.

The WIPO reg­is­tra­tion pro­vides more robust pro­tec­tion and empha­sizes how other inter­na­tional insti­tu­tions are lack­ing action, added the Greek experts.

The global mar­ket is a very com­plex field where the com­pe­ti­tion of very dif­fer­ent and con­tra­dict­ing inter­ests on the one hand and the dif­fer­ent legal back­grounds, on the other hand, must be weighed through diplo­macy to end up with sus­tain­able solu­tions,” Oikonomou said.

The pro­tec­tion given to geo­graph­i­cal indi­ca­tions at the inter­na­tional level is con­sid­er­ably enhanced by the TRIPS Agreement,” he added. However, I think that within the World Trade Organization, we need tougher rules to pro­tect qual­ity and regional prod­ucts.”

According to Oikonomou and Bakali, the WIPO reg­is­tra­tion for the four Greek PDO extra vir­gin olive oils is only the begin­ning.

We think the impor­tance of ensur­ing the widest pro­tec­tion pos­si­ble to foods of excel­lence will push the other olive oil-pro­duc­ing coun­tries to fol­low the same path,” they said. Italy in 2014 was the first coun­try that applied for the pro­tec­tion of E.U.-certified extra vir­gin olive oils, with Sabina, Dauno, Terre di Siena and Terra d’Otranto.”

The WIPO reg­is­tra­tion process for the Greek extra vir­gin olive oils did not rep­re­sent a hur­dle, Oikonomou and Bakali added.

Both the European Commission and the Greek author­i­ties gave us all the nec­es­sary infor­ma­tion and guid­ance to achieve the pro­tec­tion of the olive oils within the Lisbon System [the E.U. treaty which includes denom­i­na­tion of ori­gin and their inter­na­tional reg­is­tra­tion],” they said.

We sub­mit­ted to the Greek author­i­ties an appli­ca­tion along with the prod­uct spec­i­fi­ca­tions in English, and the rest was under­taken by both the Greek author­i­ties and the com­mis­sion,” Oikonomou and Bakali added. It was nei­ther a com­pli­cated nor a long process.”

We believe, given the suc­cess of the project, that more extra vir­gin olive oils will be reg­is­tered in the months to come,” they con­cluded.



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