The tendency of companies and startups from all around the world to protect the names of their green-related products and services was highlighted by a recent study carried out by the EU’s patent office (EUIPO).
The analysis examined the description of the trademarks filed at the EUIPO since the start of its operation in 1996, and found that companies have increasingly protected more products falling in the so-called green European trademarks (EUTM) category.And this trend is on the up – in other words, we are in the middle of a ‘green’ rush.
But let’s take a step back to have a better sense of the role of this office, which deals with the broad area of intellectual property (IP).
“Intellectual property is the umbrella that covers trademarks, designs, patents and other types of protection, like geographical indications too,” Laporta explained.
Of the different sub-categories seeking shelter under the IP umbrella, trademarks consist of the names we use to call products, while the design is about the shape and external appearance of a product.
“In EUIPO we register trademarks and designs, but not patents – representing the technology behind a product – which is a task done by our sister organisation called European Patent Office (EPO) based in Munich,” he said.
In a nutshell, if you have a bottle of champagne – which is a geographical indication (GI) – in front of you, Dom Pérignon represents the trademark, while a particular shape of the bottle, or even the label, could be a protected design.
“In one product put on the market, you can have all forms of protection combined,” Laporta said.
Now that we know more about intellectual property, the question is: how does our beloved agrifood sector perform in the field of green EUTM?
Despite being the group with the fewest green EUTMs (only 1.9% of the total), agriculture is a sector with significant growth in recent years.
Since 2011, there has been a boom in filings related to alternative fertilisers from Spain and Italy, as well as considerable growth in sustainable pesticides since 2015, with French and Italian companies leading the ranking.
The agriculture group of EUTM is also heavily dominated by filings from EU-based companies, meaning that there is a vibrant European sector when it comes to green agricultural products.
Another field in which the EUIPO is involved in the protection of geographical indications.
“Since 2018, we work together with the Commission and we have already examined more than 1,100 files supporting them,” Laporta said.
Apart from the examination of filings, EUIPO officials also share their knowledge and expertise by organising webinars and conferences and they have recently cooperated with the Commission in expanding GIs implementation outside the EU.
But most of all, EUIPO contributed to the development of GI view, a free online database that aggregates all the registers for geographical indications.
There is increasing speculation in Brussels that sees more ground for an involvement of the EUIPO in dealing with GIs, as DG AGRI is thinking of outsourcing some competencies in the currently ongoing review of the geographical indication framework.
Asked about that, Laporta did not comment on rumours but replied that EUIPO is willing to help the Commission on this activity.
“We have demonstrated that we have the expertise, the capacity, and also the muscle to provide them with technological support,” he said.
With a caveat. “We are limited to the technical aspects. The handling of political aspects of GIs is for the Commission, he concluded.”
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Agrifood news this week
EU farmers chief: Farmers need to know changes to CAP rules by spring
In an exclusive interview with EURACTIV, Christiane Lambert, president of the EU’s farmers association COPA, looks back at the major agricultural issues of the year in France and Europe and discusses her expectations for when France takes over the rotating EU Council presidency next month. Check it out here.
It’s not me, it’s you: Unconcious investors bias is holding back female agri entrepreneurs
A number of female agri entrepreneurs are not able to tap into their potential and scale up their businesses due to an unconscious bias among investors, according to Lukxmi Balathasan, business creation manager for EIT Food, who said that this results in a worse outcome for all. Natasha Foote has more.
Glyphosate approval: stakeholders squabble over who has the science right
As the EU considers renewing its approval for the controversial herbicide glyphosate, the industry is defending the assessment procedure while environmental campaigners have denounced it for not being based on “sound science”. Julia Dahm has the details.
Safety vs. sovereignty: Stakeholders split over increasing imports of ‘cleaner’ phosphates
Stakeholders are calling on the European Commission to stop prioritising home-grown phosphates high in cancer-causing cadmium over imports of cleaner products from non-EU countries, but others warn that this risks sacrificing EU autonomy. Natasha Foote explores the problem in this EURACTIV article.
News from the bubble
COVID silver lining: The COVID-19 pandemic in Europe has resulted in a “remarkable” drop in reported zoonotic diseases in humans – ranging from 7% to 53% depending on the reported disease in question – and foodborne outbreaks, according to the annual EU One Health zoonosis report by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
Carbon farming initiative a ‘wasted opportunity’: NGOs have warned that the carbon farming initiative as it currently stands, based on a draft version of the Communication that has been circulating on various media outlets, is a “wasted opportunity,” in a letter sent this week to European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans.
Animal welfare: Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides exchanged views with world-renowned environmentalist and scientist Jane Goodall this week at a conference on how the EU can look to strengthen and build upon its position as a “world leader” in animal welfare. “Only together, we can make the transition to a more sustainable food production system that we, our animals and our planet needs – and, at the same time, maintain the EU’s leading role globally, on animal welfare,” the Commissioner said in her opening remarks.
Fertilisers, pesticides to lose VAT exemption from 2032: The Council agreed this week to phase out reduced VAT rates or exemptions on fossil fuels and other goods with a similar impact on greenhouse gas emissions, by 1 January 2030. However, reduced rates and exemptions for chemical fertilisers and chemical pesticides will end by 1 January 2032, to give small-scale farmers more time to adapt. In addition, the Council introduced environmentally-friendly goods and services in the list for which reduced rates are allowed, such as solar panels, electric bicycles and waste recycling services.
Something to wine about: Raising health awareness will benefit fruit and vegetable consumption while changing lifestyles and preferences will negatively influence the wine sector and climate change will remain a challenge for olive oil production, according to this year’s EU agricultural outlook for 2021-31 report, which was published this week. In fact, EU wine production is expected to decline by 0.3% per year, resulting in 148 million hectolitres in 203, which the report said will be only partially compensated by the use of new varieties which are more adapted to climate change. To learn more about these insights and others, check out the report for yourself here.
Branching out: The Commission, together with the European Environment Agency (EEA), published a new data tool – MapMyTree – this week for all organisations to join the pledge of planting three billion additional trees by 2030, register and map their planted trees to count the EU target.
(Agri)-life in plastic, not so fantastic: A new report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has concluded that the land we use to grow our food is contaminated with far larger quantities of plastic pollution than our beaches and oceans, posing an even greater threat to food security, people’s health, and the environment. According to data collated by the agency’s experts, agricultural value chains each year use 12.5 million tonnes of plastic products, while a further 37.3 million tonnes are used in food packaging. The crop production and livestock sectors were found to be the largest users, accounting for 10.2 million tonnes per year collectively, followed by fisheries and aquaculture with 2.1 million tonnes, and forestry with 0.2 million tonnes. The report also concluded that, in the absence of viable alternatives, demand for plastic in agriculture is only set to increase.
Agri news from the Capitals
Macron: French Council presidency ‘key moment’ to push for mirror clauses in international trade agreements. Announcing his priorities for the French presidency of the Council of the EU on Thursday (9 December), Emmanuel Macron told the press it was time to “reconcile” the EU’s economic development on the one hand and the green transition and preservation of biodiversity on the other. The upcoming French presidency represents a “key moment” to push for more coherence in trade relations of the EU with the rest of the world and notably so-called mirror clauses for social and environmental standards. As a reminder, the introduction of mirror clauses in international trade agreements is a recurrent request of French and European farmers in view of avoiding unfair competition, as the future Common Agricultural Policy and recently adopted Farm to Fork strategy oblige them to respect ever higher green, social and sanitary standards. Emmanuel Macron also recalled his intention to put an end to imported deforestation, underlining the importance to engage in European food sovereignty and “to defend our high-quality agricultural model on the European level”. (Magdalena Pistorius | EURACTIV.FR)
Will the Green Deal bring losses for Polish agriculture? A Polish parliamentary group has drawn some conclusions about the effects of the EU Green Deal on Polish agriculture, finding that the costs of production and agri-food products are likely to increase, meaning the EU will be forced to turn from an exporter into an importer of food. According to experts, an increase in the prices will result in an increase in cheap food imports from countries where EU standards are not compliant. Consumers will then choose a cheaper and lower quality product. As a result of the implementation of the Green Deal, agricultural production in all sectors will collapse, farm incomes will decrease. Production efficiency, and thus the value of EU exports of agricultural products, will drop dramatically, the group warned. (Kamila Wilczyńska | EURACTIV.pl)
Northern Ireland Protocol veterinary medicines to cause ‘substantial disruption’, warns Animal health industry. NOAH (UK National Office for Animal Health) along with AnimalhealthEurope has expressed concerns in a letter this week that the Northern Ireland Protocol (NIP) introduced following the UK’s exit from the EU could, in its current format, cause “substantial disruption” to veterinary medicines supply. Without changes to the protocol as it stands, companies would “struggle” to fulfil regulatory requirements to maintain product authorisations, with a consequent impact on supply chains, the associations said in a statement this week. Roxane Feller, AnimalhealthEurope Secretary General said that the main concern is that the sector “does not get side-lined within the complexities of this situation,” but said she remained “confident” that the EU and respective national governments realise the importance of animal health products and services, and recognise that disease is “neither beholden to geographical position nor political decision.” (Natasha Foote | EURACTIV.com)
Italian MPs from the 5-star movement are poised to present a bill that will open the Italian fields to gene editing experiments, but small farmers and NGOs are asking for a withdrawal. Learn more. (Gerardo Fortuna | EURACTIV.com)
Ireland’s ‘forgotten’ female farmers speak up. A social media campaign was launched this week with the aim for the voices of Ireland’s forgotten female farmers to be heard, without the fear of stigma or reprisal. Within just 24 hours of its launch, more than 100 women shared their experiences of sexism in the agricultural industry via the campaign, which was set up by a newly founded group, ‘Women in Agriculture Stakeholders Group’, which aims to lobby on behalf of women involved in farming, has already made major gains in its work. (Natasha Foote | EURACTIV.com)
Promotion of the Greek diet top of the agenda. Οn Monday (6 December), Greece’s minister of rural development and food, Spilios Livanos, addressed an event related to Cretan gastronomy this week, where he stressed that among the main objectives of the ministry are “the promotion of the advantages of the Greek diet and its connection with well-being, the environment and culture”. He also made special reference to the products of the Cretan land, describing them as the “yeast of the Greek diet”. On the occasion of the event, the minister stressed that the ministry actively supports the agri-food sector, saying: “we are increasing more than €35 million per year in resources for livestock and feed in the new coupled payments scheme for the period 2023-2027”. (Georgia Evangelia Karagianni| EURACTIV.gr)
German farmers “disillusioned” by economic balance. For the 2020/21 business year, farms’ yearly company results shrank by 15% compared to the previous cycle, according to new data presented by the German Farmers’ Association (DBV) on Thursday. While the arable farming and dairy sectors remained relatively stable, the pigmeat sector has been seeing a “dramatic” situation, the association’s president, Joachim Rukwied, told reporters. According to the report, the Covid-19 pandemic and numerous cases of African Swine Flu (ASF), among other things, have led to a drop of company results by 69% for the sector. “The outlook for the pig sector is grim,” Rukwied said, adding that access to Covid aids was indispensable for the affected companies. (Julia Dahm | EURACTIV.DE)
Food prices up by 8%. According to the Spanish organisation of consumers and users (OCU), the price of food has already risen 8% before Christmas as compared to 2020, representing a “historical record”. EURACTIV’s partner EFE Agro has more.
African swine fever hit the largest pig farm in Slovakia. An outbreak on two farms owned by the Danish company Pigagro was confirmed last Friday (3 December), resulting in the cull of 24,000 pigs. Given the large number of animals, abattoirs are currently struggling to destroy the bodies of slaughtered pigs in a timely manner. “It is difficult and mentally demanding. Those animals feel that they are going to die,” the head of the state veterinary institute, Jozef Bíreš,explains for the daily Dennik E. However, as per European legislation, a member state cannot export animals from infected farms to another EU country for disposal. From the end of July 2019 to the end of October this year, African swine fever in Slovakia was confirmed in 36 domestic pig farms. The virus is spreading rapidly, mainly due to the proliferation of feral pigs. The ministry of agriculture is trying to solve the problem mainly by increasing the intensity of wild boar hunting. Although the pace of hunting has increased by 43% compared to last season, the spread of the disease continues. After the fall in prices, this is yet another huge problem for the Slovak pigmeat sector. Pork is the most consumed meat in Slovakia. Domestic farmers cover only half of the demand, while the rest of the pork is imported from abroad. (Marián Koreň | EURACTIV.sk)
Agriculture ministry calls for adherence to preventive measures due to bird flu. Meanwhile, the Croatian ministry of agriculture has called for strict preventive measures in place due to the outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza, to prevent further disease in domestic poultry farming, as well as the spread of the disease and thus reduce possible large losses in poultry and economy. The avian influenza virus, subtype H5N1, has only been confirmed in Croatia on one farm so far, but has been confirmed in wild birds. Therefore, the order also determines the implementation of biosecurity measures in the hunting of feathered game by hunters, according to the Ministry. The veterinary administration has also provided a 24-hour standby on the telephone to which citizens can report any increased deaths or signs of disease in wild birds (Željko Trkanjec, EURACTIV.hr)
12 – 13 December | AGRIFISH Council meeting