Commission refers Denmark to the Court for failing to fulfil its obligations in relation to the name “Feta”

cheese

(Waldemar Brandt, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


The Commission decided today to refer Denmark to the Court of Justice of the EU for failure to adequately fulfil its obligations under the EU law on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs.

Companies based in Denmark produce and export white cheese to non-EU countries after labelling it as “Feta”. “Feta” is a registered Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) since 2002 in the EU and as such, it can only be produced in Greece according to a set of production specifications.

The Commission considers that this practice is a direct breach of the protection granted by the registration as Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and the Danish authorities have failed to prevent or stop it. By refraining to do so, Denmark infringes both the Regulation on quality schemes and the principle of sincere cooperation between the Union and Member States (Article 4(3) of the Treaty on European Union).This conduct not only violates current EU law, but it is also likely to frustrate the ongoing negotiations between the European Union and third countries for the conclusion of bilateral agreements that ensure the protection of European PDOs and the promotion of EU quality products outside the EU.

The Commission decided to open EU infringement proceedings against Denmark in January 2018 by sending a letter of formal notice. In the context of an infringement procedure, the Commission invited the Danish authorities to take appropriate steps to prevent or stop companies established on its territory from carrying out this practice.

Since Denmark has not addressed the issues raised, the Commission has decided to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Background

The EU quality schemes regulation applies to names registered as Protected Designations of Origin (PDO), Protected Geographical Indications (PGI), or Traditional Specialties Guaranteed (TSG). Product names registered as PDO are those that have the strongest links to the geographical place in which they are made.

The regulation on quality schemes aims to help producers market products that have a specific link to their geographic origin. It also ensures the availability of reliable information to consumers for such products, the respect for intellectual property rights and the integrity of the internal market.

The EU protects registered names against several types of misuse. These include the direct or indirect commercial use of the registered name for products which are comparable to those registered under that name, or alternatively, used to exploit the reputation of the name.

More specifically, Article 13 of the regulation on quality schemes describes the unlawful use of registered names and provides that Member States have the duty to prevent or stop such unlawful use of registered names that are produced or marketed in their territory.

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