CCFN, Japanese expert working group discuss common name usage for foods

April 27, 2012

The Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN), in cooperation with the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), sponsored participation in a Japanese expert working group session focused on the future development of geographical indication (GI) regulations in Japan.

Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture launched the expert working group to develop recommendations on how it can introduce a new system of protecting geographical indications. The working group is charged with providing recommendations to the Ministry of Agriculture this summer to form the basis for interagency discussions on a proposal. Details upon which criteria Japan will use in considering GI applications and the scope of protection granted to approved GIs holds significant importance for many of Japan’s trading partners, as well as consumers and retailers in Japan. The country is a leading importer of a wide range of food products, increasingly including specialty cheeses, from many suppliers around the world.

During the working group session, CCFN consultant Craig Thorn brought to the group’s attention trade and market problems that can arise when a single group is permitted to monopolize a generic product name. He also described at length the alternative regulatory paths that the Japanese government could pursue to prevent disruptions from occurring. Afterwards, Thorn met with several officials from Japanese ministries handling agriculture, trade, foreign affairs, and intellectual property protection and discussed the importance of preserving common food names, if Japan moves forward with the adoption of a GI registration system.

“The Consortium for Common Food Names believes it is critical to work with countries directly as they consider regulations that have the potential to seriously disrupt trade and confuse consumers if not carefully developed,” said Jaime Castaneda, Executive Director, CCFN. “We would like to thank the government of Japan for the opportunity to discuss these issues directly with those developing GI policy in Japan.”

The Consortium for Common Food Names and its members oppose any attempt to monopolize generic names that have become part of the public domain, such as parmesan, feta, provolone, bologna, salami, and many others. Conversely, CCFN is not opposed to the proper use of geographical indications in cases such as “Camembert de Normandie” or Florida Oranges and supports the use of such names to promote distinctive products.

As the Japanese Working Group continues to meet over the coming months, CCFN will remain involved in the process to underscore the importance of maintaining the rights of all to use common food names.