Your essential guide to protected food names

08 April 2021, 08:50 AM
  • Protected names help high-quality food and drink products stand out in a crowded market. Eve Brown, trade mark attorney at Marks & Clerk LLP explains just how important these labels are for the fine food sector
Your essential guide to protected food names

There is something that Champagne, Fal Oyster, Scottish Farmed Salmon and Irish Cream all have in common – other than the fact that they could all be found at a dinner party. These fine food and drink products each have a protected geographical name, and from 1st January 2021, producers who are permitted to use the protected names can adopt new UK labelling on their packaging.

What are protected geographical food and drink names?

The protected name informs consumers that a product possesses a given quality, reputation or other characteristic attributable to a particular place.

Unlike a brand name, any producer that fulfils the strict rules and requirements (which vary depending on the category and the specific products concerned) is permitted to use the name. For example, Irish Cream is used on the product labels of Baileys’ liqueur and is marketed and promoted alongside the Baileys trade mark.

A competitor of Baileys cannot use the Baileys trade mark, but provided that they fulfil the strict requirements, they can use Irish Cream to market their products alongside a dissimilar brand name.

What are the strict requirements?

This depends on the category, and the requirements vary according to product type. Protected Geographical Indications (PGIs) require that at least one of the production steps (how many and what they are is specific to the PGI concerned) take place in a particular geographical location, the product must also possess a given quality, reputation or other characteristic attributable to the area.

Irish Cream falls into this category. One of the many requirements to use Irish Cream is that the milk fat content must consist of fresh Irish dairy cream produced on the island of Ireland including Northern Ireland.

Like PGIs, Protected Designation of Origin (PDOs) also require the product to possess a given quality, reputation or other characteristic attributable to a particular area, but they require all of the production steps to take place in that particular area (with certain exceptions).

Fal Oyster falls into this category. This protected name can only be used if, among other things, the Cornwall oysters are caught within a specific designated area using traditional sailing and rowing vessels.

Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSGs) require that the mode of production, processing or composition corresponding to a traditional practice is produced from raw materials or ingredients that are traditionally used. Traditional Farmfresh Turkey falls into this category with criteria which includes, but is not limited to, use of a slow grown and mature bird of a minimum of 20 weeks. Another example is Traditional Bramley Apple Pie Filling which requires, among other things, the use of Bramley apples between 65mm-115mm in size that are ripe and free from skin blemishes. 

A full list of protected food and drink names in the UK, along with the specific requirements to be met in respect of each, can be found here. It is worth noting that this is not an exhaustive list. An application for Watercress as a TSG was made on 1st January 2021 and is currently under review.

Why have protected food and drink names?

The nature of protected food and drink names is that producers who do not fulfil the strict rules specific to the protected name are excluded from using them. This exclusivity means that consumers frequently associate protected food and drink names with a higher level of quality or reputation. On 1st January 2021, the UK government introduced three new labels for goods with PGI, PDO or TSG status. Adding a Geographical Indication logo to a product can add credibility and promote consumer confidence, particularly where you are new to market. It can help you stand out in a crowded space.

Aside from this, having protected names can be a useful tool to protect against misuse or imitation by competitors. It also goes as far as to protect against instances where the true origin of the product is indicated but the protected name is also used without permission, for example, “in the style of…” or “as produced in…”.

For the fine food sector, protected food and drink names ensure that the quality and heritage of the labelled products are instantly recognisable by consumers, making it easier than ever to shout about fantastic British products.

If you would like to know more, you can get in touch with Marks & Clerk LLP’s specialist team of Trade Mark Attorneys.

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