French new geographical indications and EU trademarks

Published onMarch 2016

Shall the name Savon de Marseille (a vegetal oil-based soap) be the first geographical indication protecting industrial and artisanal products (1) to be approved? This name is the first application, filed by the association of the manufacturers of the Savon de Marseille (2), being examined by the INPI, the French Patent and Trademark Office.

According to the new definition set by Article L.721-2 of the French Intellectual Property Code, must be considered a geographical indication the name of a geographical area or of a specific place which serves to designate a product, other than agricultural, forester, alimentary or from the sea, which is native from such area and has a specific quality, reputation or other characteristics that are essentially attributable to this geographical origin.

If registered, the geographical indication protecting an industrial and/or artisanal product could bar the registration of French but also of EU trademarks consisting of or including such a name, according to article 7(1)(j) of EU Trademark Regulation since EUIPO (formerly known as OHIM) considers, as far as national law is concerned, that the reference to an international agreement to which the Member State concerned is party should be interpreted as other international agreements (including the Lisbon Agreement) in those areas where no uniform EU protection is in place, namely non-agricultural products.

With this new IP title, France provided professional federations an effective lever to protect regional and traditional know-how. IP and trademark specialists in Europe should definitely watch what is happening in France for it sure will have repercussions at the EU level in the very near future.