The recognition of ‘protected geographical indication’ obtained by Nocciola di Giffoni hazelnuts on 24 November 1997 protects that denomination from any practices that might mislead consumers as to the true origin of the product.
On 30 September 2012 the Dutch authorities entered the denomination Nocciola di Giffoni in the Nederlands Rassenregister (national register of variety denominations).
Given that Article 2 of Regulation (EC) No 637/2009 of the Commission stipulates that in the case of a geographical indication or a designation of origin for agricultural products and foodstuffs as a prior right of a third party, the use of a variety denomination in the territory of the Community shall be prohibited, what action will the Commission take to prevent the continued use of the denomination in question by the Dutch operators?
Since the Commission is the body responsible for ensuring that EU rules are properly implemented by a Member State, how do its departments intend to ensure that existing legislation is being properly implemented by all Member States?
1. The existing legislation on the marketing of varieties which includes rules on suitability of variety denominations(1) is restricted to agricultural plant species and vegetable species. However, no rules as regards the inclusion of a geographical name in the variety denomination currently apply concerning varieties of fruit species. Those rules may be adopted pursuant to Article 7(3) of Directive 2008/90/EC(2). In the absence of those rules, the final decision on the denomination of varieties of fruit species lies with the Member States’ competent authorities.
In the case of an application for the protection of a variety by a Community Plant Variety Right, the Community Plant Variety Office will approve the proposed denomination in accordance with Council Regulation 2100/94/EC(3). When a variety denomination is identical to or may be confused with other designations which are commonly used for the marketing of goods under other legislation, a new denomination will have to be proposed.
Consumers should not be misled if a product the labelling of which includes a name protected under EU quality schemes that contains or comprises the name of a plant variety is placed on the market. In that respect, the requirements established under Article 42(1) of Regulation (EU) No 1151/2012 on quality schemes(4) should be duly considered.
2. When the Commission receives a complaint regarding the implementation of EU legislation, it will investigate that complaint in light of the applicable EC law. The Commission may consider opening an infringement procedure against the Member State concerned. However, the Commission will only intervene if non-compliances with EC law are persistent, systematic or continuous(5) and not addressed through corrective action.
(1) Commission Regulation (EC) No 637/2009 of 22 July 2009 establishing implementing rules as to the suitability of the denominations of varieties of agricultural plant species and vegetable species (OJ L 191, 23.7.2009, p. 10).
(2) Council Directive 2008/90/EC of 29 September 2008 on the marketing of fruit plant propagating material and fruit plants intended for fruit production (OJ L 267, 8.10.2008, p. 8).
(3) Council Regulation (EC) No 2100/94 of 27 July 1994 on Community plant variety rights (OJ L 227, 1.9.1994, p. 1).
(4) Regulation (EU) No 1151/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 November 2012 on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs (OJ L 343, 14.12.2012, p. 1.).
(5) See Cases C-21/84, Commission vs France, C-387/99, Commission vs Germany, and C-494/01, Commission vs Ireland.