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EU demands for IP protection for food after Brexit unnecessary, says expert

The EU wants Britain to continue to protect the intellectual property rights of products such as champagne, parmesan and Parma ham after Brexit, according to a position paper on exports seen by the Financial Times.08 Sep 2017

However, this is unlikely to be needed as the UK has always protected such goods, said Iain Connor, an intellectual property expert at Pinsent Masons, the law behind Out-Law.com.

EU laws place restrictions on the sale or production of certain goods that are synonymous with particular areas of Europe. This means that Scotch whisky, Parma ham and champagne, among other products with a protected geographic indication (PGI), can only be referred to as such if they are produced in accordance with strict rules and within certain areas.

The leaked paper calls for the protection "not to be undermined by the withdrawal of the UK from the EU". In return, the EU would recognise eligible UK intellectual property rights, the Financial Times said.

The paper said that new legislation may be needed in the UK to protect designations of origin, such as traditional specialities and criteria for wine.

"The leaked paper fails to acknowledge that the UK has always protected regional products with sufficient reputation through its passing off laws," said Connor.

"Before the EU introduced a unified PGI regime, the UK courts always protected regional products and had, for example, stopped the sale of 'Spanish champagne'. Further, since the PGI regime was codified, UK courts have afforded protection to product classes, such as vodka, which would not have been eligible for PGI status. Accordingly, new legislation is unlikely to be required to give effect to these demands given that the UK has led the world in affording such protection," he said.