Minutes - TRIPS Council - View details of the intervention/statement

Ambassador Eduardo Pérez Motta (Mexico)
132. The representative of Australia said that the comments by the representative of Bulgaria had shed a completely new light on the Council's discussions. He understood that the representative of Bulgaria had said that he had no objection if he was to be placed in a position, as he soon would be, in which any Bulgarian "soft white cheese" described as "feta" would not be allowed to be sold in the European Communities because, within the Communities, the word "feta" would no longer be able to be used in relation to any place other than Greece. What the representative of Bulgaria disliked about the tin of "soft white cheese" he had showed to the Council was the fact that it was manufactured in a member State of the European Communities, that the colours used were the Bulgarian national colours and that the word "Bulgare" was prominently displayed on the package. This was a very important point because the question was what kind of protection did the TRIPS Agreement give now for a country to take action to prevent such misleading advertising and passing-off of a product which was clearly not genuine. In Australia, and probably in most WTO Members, there existed legal means and laws which sought to prohibit such misleading advertising. So, if Bulgaria wanted to take action to prevent this from happening in the European Communities, what would it do to this end? Was there any recourse in the European Communities to stop this? But, the most important point one had to bear in mind in this discussion was what did this mean in terms of TRIPS protection under Articles 22 and 23? Bulgaria had clearly implied that if cheese was given a higher level of protection this would never happen. This, however, was completely false. He was not sure whether this was given protection under Article 22, because he was also not sure if "Bulgaria" was a GI. And if this term did not meet the definition of a GI, then it would not get protection under Articles 22 and 23. So, would Article 23-level protection for "soft white cheese" automatically prevent member States of the European Communities from producing a good like this? If the answer was yes, then the discussion would be seen in a different light. However, he said he did not believe this was the case because of the question as to whether a country name would automatically be a GI, the question of whether it would be protected in Bulgaria or the country of origin, and the question of whether it would not be automatically protected under Article 22. Furthermore, he rejected the notion that Australia had not been engaging in this discussion in good faith. Australia had deliberately been seeking for the last year to engage in a sensible discussion on this matter. He was convinced, from his talks with Ministers, that there was still considerable confusion on the whole question of GIs. 133. As to the issue of "tokay", he quoted from an article published in the Financial Times of London on 14 November 2002, as follows: "Europe's economies are plunging into darkness, European Union competitiveness initiatives are strewn on the wayside: who blames the 15 EU ambassadors in Brussels for taking refuge in the finer things in life, such as Hungary's Tokaj dessert wine? A dispute erupted at their weekly meeting yesterday over plans to give Hungarians sole right to use the Tokaj name. Italy, which produces Tocai wine, cited 13th-century documentary evidence that the Hungarians got their original grapes from Italy. 'We have also found documents from 1632 showing that a noble woman from Gorizia married an Hungarian count and took 300 Tocai grape plants as a dowry', says an Italian official". So these could be the issues Members would get into if trying to make a decision on whether a word was owned by someone or someone else or whether it had become a generic term. All Members should think very carefully about the costs that would be involved in researching back to 1632 to find out who married whom and who took grapes as a dowry.