My series of posts on the leak of the Trans Pacific Partnership intellectual property chapter has highlighted Canada’s opposition to many U.S. proposals, U.S. demands for Internet provider liability that could lead to subscriber termination, content blocking, and ISP monitoring, as well as anti-counterfeiting provisions that are inconsistent with Bill C-8. This post discusses the section on protection for geographical indications and explains how U.S. demands conflict with Canada has already agreed to in the trade agreement with Europe (CETA).
As I discussed in a post on CETA last month, the Canada – EU deal contains some notable new restrictions on the sale and marketing of cheese in Canada. Under the umbrella of geographical indications, Canada has agreed to new limitations on several well known cheeses including asiago, feta, fontina, gorgonzola, and munster. Existing Canadian producers can continue to use these names, but that’s it – any future cheese makers will need to qualify the title by using words such as “imitation” or “style”. This is a significant concession that effectively gives rights to existing producers on what many consumers would view as generic names.
The U.S. wants the TPP to take the opposite approach, starting with a general provision stating that trademarks should be sufficient to provide protection. Where parties do provide geographical indication protection (Canada obviously does), the U.S. wants an opposition system to object to them. Moreover, it wants to stop any country from prohibiting third parties from using translated versions of geographical indication (except for wines and spirits) or from using a term that is evoked by the geographical indication. The U.S. also wants the possibility that geographical terms may become customary in common language (ie. feta).
Canada is opposed to all of these proposals (as are most other TPP countries) and it seems unlikely that the U.S. will get its way on all of them. Yet the draft text demonstrates the potential for conflict, which could easily extend to many other areas of the TPP that remain shrouded in secrecy.