Tuesday 18 June 2024
  • La Cimbali

Victory for Café de Colombia in European Courts

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BOGOTA, Colombia –The Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) achieved a significant victory before European courts in defense of the “Café de Colombia” Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) against brands seeking to take advantage of its reputation.

Through a resolution that broadens the scope of protection, the European Union’s General Court confirmed that the protection of PGIs against conflicting brands is not limited to products of the same type (coffee for instance), but that it includes all services that can potentially confuse consumers.

This new victory for Café de Colombia as a Protected Geographical Indication is the result of the efforts of the FNC’s Intellectual Property team in terms of proper origin characterization, promotion and defense.

The protection of the Café de Colombia origin not only translates into added value for Colombian producers, but is also a quality guarantee for consumers.

Geographical Indications are a key element of the FNC’s value added strategy.

Experts have acknowledged that Colombia is among the few coffee producing countries that have attained significant knowledge on issues associated with Denominations of Origin and that the FNC has one of the world’s most sophisticated strategies for protecting and promoting its Geographical Indications.


A lengthy process

Between 2010 and 2011, the FNC reported before the European Union’s Board of Appeal of the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) that brands such as “COLOMBIANO HOUSE” and “COLOMBIANO COFFEE HOUSE” for restaurants or cafés (class 43 in the Nice classification) breached the PGI “Café de Colombia” according to the regulation on PGI/PDO of agricultural and food products.

The FNC requested the OHIM to deny registering the brand “COLOMBIANO HOUSE” and to annul the registered brand “COLOMBIANO COFFEE HOUSE”.

The FNC argued that the protection of the PGI “Café de Colombia” extends to cases of direct or indirect use, evocation, or exploitation of the PGI’s reputation.

The OHIM’s Board of Appeal rejected the FNC’s requests, arguing that the protection of the PGI “Café de Colombia,” and the consequent denial or annulment of competing brands, only applied to products of the same type (coffee class 43 in the Nice classification) and not to restaurants or cafés.

In line with the FNC, the European Union’s General Court considered that article 13 (which notes that the protection of a PGI need not refer to the same type of product) should be used in lieu of article 14 (which requires that the reported brand and the PGI pertain to the same type of product).

On September 18 2015, the General Court annulled the Board of Appeal’s resolutions protecting “COLOMBIAN HOUSE” and “COLOMBIAN COFFEE HOUSE” against “Café de Colombia”.

It’s worth noting that the FNC had previously achieved another significant victory on behalf of Café de Colombia. On February 2nd,the Opposition Division of the OHIM refused to register the brand “COLOMBUENO” for restaurants or cafés (class 43) because it conflicted with the PGI “Café de Colombia”.

Massimo Vittori, Executive Director of the Organization for an International Geographical Indications Network (OriGIn), noted that, “This sends a powerful message to those seeking to take advantage of the reputation of a Denomination of Origin in order to sell inferior quality products or products from different origins.”

Similarly, Ramón Gonzales, President of the Regulatory Council of Tequila in Mexico and Chairman of OriGIn’s Board, acknowledged the efforts of Café de Colombia in achieving greater protection from European courts.


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