In 2017, we discussed how protection for UK geographical indications ("GIs") was expected to be maintained post-Brexit. As the end of the Brexit transition period (at 11pm on 31 December 2020) is fast approaching, how will things change for EU and UK GIs going forward?

Geographical Indications

At present, food and drink producers can protect their produce under various international schemes. GIs denote food, agricultural and wine/spirit drinks products which have a particular quality, reputation or other characteristic which is essentially attributable to its geographical origin - distinguishing your "Roquefort" from blue cheese and "Cava" from sparkling wine.

Currently, UK GIs are established under EU regulations. There are 88 protected names for UK produce under the EU scheme. 15 of these GIs cover Scotland-specific goods including Scotch Whisky, Stornoway black pudding, Scotch beef, Arbroath smokies and Scotch lamb.

To be considered a GI, at least one of the production, processing or preparation stages will usually have taken place in the relevant area. Only producers meeting the relevant criteria can utilise the name. To be called "Scotch lamb", for example, the meat must come from lambs born, reared and processed in Scotland, meeting stringent criteria regarding animal welfare and production methods. Produce displaying a GI logo therefore assures consumers as to the provenance and quality of the product.

Like other intellectual property rights, a GI also legally protects the products against imitation and can be used to stop those who do not meet the criteria, from using, imitating or evoking the GI. Scotch Whisky and Prosecco have been enforced many times to protect the value and reputation of the names.

The importance of UK producers being able to continue to protect the quality of their offerings after the end of the transition period cannot be underestimated.

The UK Scheme

In consideration of this, from 1 January 2021, the UK will implement its own GI scheme. This will be managed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs ("DEFRA"). It will use the following designations (similarly to the EU scheme) and introduce new logos:

  • Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)
  • Protected Geographical Indication (PGI)
  • Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG)

UK products registered under the current EU GI scheme before 1 January 2021 will continue to be protected under the UK GI scheme. GI protected products sold in the UK before the end of transition will have until 1 January 2024 to change their packaging and marketing materials to utilise the new UK GI logos.

Continued protection in the EU

The introduction of the UK GI Scheme will not prevent UK producers from also registering to protect their new product names in the EU . However, UK protection will have to be secured before applying for protection under the EU scheme (except for producers in Northern Ireland). GI products protected in the UK and EU will be able to use logos for both schemes.

Further information is awaited from DEFRA as to the particulars, but the UK GI Scheme is a step in the right direction to ensure continued protection of some of Scotland's best-known produce. It is however, key that this scheme is well- and widely-promoted to ensure that when a consumer sees the UK logos, both here and internationally, they will have the same assurances as to the quality of produce as they do with the current EU scheme.