Sunday, February 17, 2013

First South-East Asian Geographical Indication to obtain protection in the European Union

Although it is not about wine law, this matter is of importance for anyone interested in geographical indications.

Khao Hom Mali Thung Kula Rong-Hai “KTKRH” is a non-glutinous exuding a natural aroma white rice variety sensitive to photo period. It is produced in the defined geographical area of Thung Kula Rong-Hai extending across five Thai provinces Roi-et, Mahasarakam, Surin, Yasothon and Srisaket. Natural and human factors play an integral role in production of KTKRH. Cultivation of “KTKRH” began after the Thai Government improved the Hom Mali rice variety and certified it in 1959.

On 20 November 2008, further to its recognition as a geographical indication in Thailand, “KTKRH” was applied as a Protected Geographical Indication (“PGI”) with the European Commission (“EC”) under the European Council regulation no. 510/2006.

After its publication in the EU GI Gazette on June 29, 2010, the Governments of Belgium, France, Italy, Netherlands and the United Kingdom filed objections against it. They argued that (i) “Khao Hom Mali” is a generic term and (ii) and requested “KTKRH” to be packaged outside of Thung Kula Rong-Hai area, including in Europe.

The EC considered the PGI’s applicant’s response to the five countries’ objections and, on 12 February 2012, it granted the registration certificate of “PGI” to “KTKRH”. The EC’s decision is more than a legal victory. It enhances KTKRH’s market access in EU through guaranteeing consumers its full traceability since the EC has also dismissed objecting countries’ request to allow KTKRH to be packaged outside Thung Kula Rong-Hai.

In this case, I had the chance to act for the PGI applicant and the Department of Intellectual Property of Thailand.

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