The challenges of agri-food marketing under CETA

May 29th, 2018

By Johanne Auger, Trademark Agent and Didier Culat, Lawyer

If you’re thinking of opening a shop to sell cheese you make called “Reblochon” or “Gorgonzola”, you should be aware that the Canada - European Union Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) protects 179 geographical indications concerning foods and beer. This new protection is an extension of the 648 geographical indications that have been in place since 2003 between Canada and the European Union but that have been limited so far to certain wines and spirits.

Your cheese shop will not be able to sell a cheese called “Reblochon” unless it was already doing so prior to October 18, 2013, the date of the agreement in principle between Canada and the European Union. Your new business making and selling cheese that looks, tastes and smells like the real Reblochon will unfortunately have to find another name.

With a few exceptions, the restriction for Reblochon will also apply to the 178 other geographical indications protected under the Agreement.

However, if you decide to make Gorgonzola, you could sell it under that name provided you describe your product using the words “kind”, “type”, “style” or “imitation” to avoid confusion with the region of Italy it comes from. These prohibitions and restrictions will not apply if you were selling a product under the name “Gorgonzola” in Canada before October 18, 2013.

Note that the same types of restrictions concerning Gorgonzola also apply to Asiago, Feta, Fontina and Münster cheeses. Still a fan of Gorgonzola? You should also be aware that CETA will set up rules that would prohibit you from importing Gorgonzola, that is not produced in Italy, from Wisconsin (which produces a well-known Gorgonzola) or other locations. These rules will also apply to the 178 other geographical indications that are protected under CETA.

As a result, any business selling agro-food or alcohol products would be well advised to read CETA to ensure that the name of the product it would like to sell is not part of the 179 geographical indications currently protected under CETA. Click here for a list of geographical indications protected CETA. This list will likely grow. Canada also obtained exemptions concerning the English and French versions of certain geographical indications. CETA protects the word “Schwarzwärlder Schinken” but allows the use of the words “Black Forest ham” and “jambon Forêt-Noire”.

CETA was provisionally in force on September 21, 2017 whereby almost all the provisions are immediately applicable and requires the approval of the Member States of the European Union prior to full implementation.

Our specialists at BCF will be pleased to advise you concerning the names of agro-food or alcohol products that you can or cannot use in view of the geographical indications protected under CETA.