Counterfeiting of “made in Italy” products: the new European shield

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The sentence of the Court of Justice of the European Union no. 154/2021 of September 9, 2021 establishes a ban on the use of names or graphics that instrumentally and deceptively evoke products with denomination of origin recognized and protected by EU regulations. Counterfeiting, evocation and imitation will be fought by appealing to the competent bodies and specific initiatives will be taken in the courts.

Counterfeiting can only be defeated with the help of consumers, according to the judgment: “According to the Court, in order to establish the existence of an evocation it is essential that the consumer establishes a link between the term used to designate the product in question and the PGI. That link must be sufficiently direct and unambiguous. Evocation can therefore be established only by means of an overall assessment by the national court covering all the relevant factors of the case. Consequently, the concept of ‘evocation’ within the meaning of the regulation does not require that the product protected by the PDO and the product or service bearing the contested name be identical or similar. The Court specified that, in assessing the existence of such an evocation, reference must be made to the perception of an average European consumer, reasonably well informed and reasonably observant and circumspect“.

With this judgment, welcomed also by the trade associations, the system of protection of Geographical Indications is further strengthened in order to stem the phenomenon of Italian sounding, which represents for the italian companies a real cancer, to be eradicated for the legitimate interests of certified producers and for the economy of the territory.

We remind you that the Central Inspectorate for the protection of quality and fraud repression of agri-food products is using a more rigid approach than in the past in the interpretation of the concept of evocation of PDO and PGI. Nowadays, it is considered evocative of a PDO or PGI the simple presence on the label of a similar or comparable product of an image or symbol that recalls even only the geographical territory of a protected name.

The use also of graphic signs or evocative symbols recalling the geographical territory on a generic product risks to involve an administrative sanction between 2.000 € and 13.000 € by ICQRF. A further sanction may also be applied which foresees the publication in national newspapers and the consequent divulgation of the measure which ascertains the violation.

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