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WTO Rules In Dispute Over Protected Product Names

By Agence France-Presse The United States on Nov. 18 claimed victory over the European Union in a dispute at the World Trade Organization (WTO) about geographically linked product names such as Champagne or Parmesan cheese. A U.S. Official indicated that a confidential report by a WTO dispute settlement panel had ruled in favor of a U.S. and Australian position on EU rules governing product names. The WTO's ruling found that the EU's 1992 legislation on "geographical indications" of products -- mainly food or drink -- did not conform with global trade rules, another diplomatic source added. The EU's rule requires that other countries grant the same protection to names that denominate the geographical origin of products as applied by European countries. Failing that, their own brand names would not be recognized by the 25 EU member states. The final ruling is due to be made public early next year. A diplomat said the United States had been rebuffed on another part of the case centering on the beer brand Budweiser, Bud for short. The beer battle over the right to the names has pitted the world's largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch of the United States, against the Czech brewery Budjejovicky Budvar for several years. The Czechs, defended by Brussels, say they have been brewing a beer under the name since the 13th century, although the American beer has gained broader international notoriety in recent years. "The Americans, who have been pressed by Anheuser-Busch to get the EU legislation condemned because it protects the Czech brand name, lost on this part of the dispute," the diplomat said. The broader issue of how to protect geographical indications at the international level without setting up trade barriers is still being debated by the WTO's 147 member states in talks on further trade liberalization. EU countries and developing nations such as India and Thailand favor a reinforcement of protection at the level of the WTO, while the United States, Canada, Japan and major agricultural exporters in the Cairns Group, including Australia, have opposed the proposal. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2004

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