Japan – Mozzarella di Bufala Campana PDO ‘evocation’ case

In light of the next application of the EU-Japan free trade agreement, this Q&A between a Member of the EU Parliament (MEP) and the EU Commission, raise a curious case of evocation of a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin, recognized under Reg. EU 1151/2012).

Question for written answer E-001489-19 – 25th March 2019

The Consortium for the Protection of Mozzarella di Bufala Campana PDO, acting in its watchdog capacity, is speaking out against a Tokyo-based cheese factory producing cow’s milk mozzarella marketed under the label ‘Mu Mu Mozzarella Tokyo Dop’, which, together with the buffalo’s head company logo, manifestly brings to mind Mozzarella di Bufala Campana PDO.

The EU-Japan trade agreement, which entered into force on 1 February 2019, ought to make for greater protection of intellectual property rights, and that includes automatic recognition of PGIs and PDOs registered in the EU.

1. Does the Commission consider the above facts to amount to a clear case of ‘evocation’ — according to the definition given in several Court of Justice rulings — of ‘Mozzarella di Bufala Campana PDO’?

2. Does the EU-Japan trade agreement explicitly call for Japan to take administrative measures in response to complaints about product labelling, especially when this is likely to mislead consumers?

3. What steps can the Commission take within its specific area of responsibility to ensure that the ‘Mozzarella di Bufala Campana’ PDO is legally protected on the Japanese market in accordance with the EU-Japan trade agreement?

(1) Judgments of 4 March 1999, Cambozola, C-87/97, EU:C:1999:115, paragraph 25; 26 February 2008, Commission v Germany, C-132/05, EU:C:2008:117, paragraph 44; and 21 January 2016, Verlados, C-75/15, EU:C:2016:35, paragraph 21.

Answer given by Mr Hogan on behalf of the European Commission

The EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) ensures the protection in the territory of Japan of the EU geographical indications (GIs) listed in its Annex 14-B. The Italian GI ‘Mozzarella di Bufala Campana’ is listed in Annex 14-B and thus protected in Japan under the EPA since 1 February 2019.

SubSection 3 of Chapter 14 of the EPA applies to the recognition and protection of GIs for agricultural products, which originate in the EU, and contains a prohibition to mislead the Japanese consumer as to the true origin of products. Thus, the EU GI in question referred to by the Honourable Member is protected against potential evocation in Japan. Article 14.28 provides administrative enforcement of the protection of GIs listed in Annex 14-B.

The Commission has been made aware of the presence on the Japanese market of the product labelled ‘Mu Mu Mozzarella’ and is currently investigating and making inquiries on this particular matter with a view to exhaustively and appropriately assess the factual and legal elements.

In case an infringement is identified, it will take all necessary actions to ensure the respect of obligations under the EPA by the Japanese authorities.

In my opinion from this answer 3 key facts emerge:

  1. the EU understanding of the concept of evocation is very broad and includes any similarity in words, pictorials or names. In this sense also the recent case of the Court of Justice about Queso Manchego PDO and the image of Don Quixote de La Mancha on a “non-PDO” cheese from Spain (C-614/17);
  2. despite the heavy protection granted to GIs (geographical indications) in Europe, in third countries they are mostly treated as common trademarks. Therefore, the only way to contrast misleading products in such countries is administrative cooperation;
  3. despite the common opinion, to agree on a list of protected GIs is possibly the best viable approach at the moment. Especially when two strong economies are negotiating, will be an utopia to impose – from the EU side – the complete recognition of hundreds of GIs, potentially conflicting with local trademarks. While on the contrary, agree on a list of protected ones allow the EU to have solid basis to activate the administrative cooperation and eventually re-negotiate the agreement at a later stage.

(Source: EU Parliament)

FOR MORE INFORMATION AND 100″ SECONDS FOOD NEWS, PLEASE VISIT ALSO OUR NEW YOUTUBE CHANNEL

1st Food Law in Asia International Conference – Export, Labelling and Countering Fraud

I am very proud to announce that I will be chairing this one of a kind event in Europe, realised by Lexxion Publisher and supported by Food Industry Asia (FIA) and HFG Law Firm, one of the leading firm in China in food and intellectual property sectors.

A special thank to my colleague and friend Nicola Aporti for helping out in everything.

The event will be on 12th June 2017 in Amsterdam, Hampshire Hotel – American.

This first international conference on Asian food law, will be bringing together experts and practitioners from various European and Asian countries. High-profile lecturers from industry and private practice will familiarise participants with the ins and outs of the Asian food market and answer their questions.

The speakers will provide an insight into the legal and regulatory complexities of the Asian food market, update participants on the most recent developments in Asian food law and introduce them to the most relevant cultural aspects of the region. The sessions will combine presentations, case studies and Q&As allowing you to discuss your questions with our experts.

Speaker’s list:

  • Cesare Varallo
    Food Lawyer in Italy, Vice President – Business and Regulatory Affairs EU – INSCATECH, Turin (Chair)
  • Nicola Aporti
    Head of Corporate and Food Regulatory, HFG Law & Intellectual Property, Shanghai
  • Akihisa Shiozaki
    Partner at Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu, Tokyo
  • Katia Merten-Lentz
    Partner at Keller and Heckman LLP, Brussels
  • YiFan Jiang
    Regional Regulatory Affairs Manager at Food Industry Asia (FIA), Singapore
  • Fabio Giacopello, Partner at HFG Law & Intellectual Property, Shanghai
  • Michael Jahnz, Senior Manager at Wessling Consulting Ltd., Shanghai
  • Tania Porsgaard Bayer, Team Manager Regulatory Affairs at Arla Foods Ingredients, Denmark

You can find the full program here and register here.

For more information about the event, please contact Clara Hausin at hausin@lexxion.de or write me at foodlawlatest@gmail.com

Hope to see you there!

Here below a taste of the topics:

A General Introduction to Export in Asia

  • Cultural issues
  • How to incorporate regulatory aspects into your export strategy

Cesare Varallo, Food Lawyer in Italy, Vice President – Business and Regulatory Affairs EU – INSCATECH, Turin

The Policy and Regulatory Landscape for the Food Industry in Asia: Challenges and Opportunities

  • Complexity of the regulatory environment in Asia
  • Key challenges (food safety and nutrition policies, SPS and TBT issues, regulatory differencies etc.)
  • Opportunities for harmonisation

YiFan Jiang, Regional Regulatory Affairs Manager at Food Industry Asia (FIA), Singapore

Export from the EU to China: General Trade Issues

  • Structure of competent authorities
  • Registration and general requirements for export
  • Mandatory labelling
  • Novel foods

Katia Merten-Lentz, Partner at Keller and Heckman LLP, Brussels

Advertising, E-Commerce and Consumer Protection

  • Intellectual property & advertising
  • E-commerce
  • Consumer protection & compliance

Nicola Aporti, Head of Corporate and Food Regulatory, HFG Law & Intellectual Property, Shanghai

Milk Sector and Infant Formula in China

Tania Porsgaard Bayer, Team Manager Regulatory Affairs at Arla Foods Ingredients, Denmark

Important local testing standards for the Chinese market

  • Differences to ISO testing standards
  • Recent news in Chinese standards

Michael Jahnz, Senior Manager at Wessling Consulting Ltd., Shanghai

The Impact of the EU GI on the Chinese Trademark System

Fabio Giacopello, Partner at HFG Law & Intellectual Property, Shanghai

New Developments in Japanese Food Law

  • Recent developments in Japanese food law and labelling requirements
  • Newly introduced sanctions on mislabeling
  • Case studies on crisis management relating to the Japanese food market

Akihisa Shiozaki, Partner at Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu, Tokyo

Counterfeiting and Food Frauds Issues in Asia

  • Practical examples
  • How to prevent fraud and protect your brand
  • The transparency challenge and ongoing initiatives in Asia

Cesare Varallo, Food Lawyer in Italy, Vice President – Business and Regulatory Affairs EU – INSCATECH, Turin

Final Round-Table Discussion with Companies and Trade Association Representatives