Hurleys, uilleann pipes, and Waterford Crystal could soon enjoy the same EU geo-legal protections currently available to the manufacturers of food items like Parma ham and Feta cheese.
A report by the European Parliament’s legal affairs committee has recommended the extension of existing geographical indication protections for food products, wines, and spirits to non-food items.
The European Commission has identified more than 800 products that could be suitable for such protection, including 16 from Ireland.
They include crystalware from Waterford, Cavan, Cork, Galway, Kilkenny, Tipperary, and Sligo as well as lace products from Borris, Carrickmacross, Clones, Kenmare, and Limerick.
Other products are Donegal Tweed and Newbridge Silverware, while ‘Irish linen’ from Northern Ireland is a designated product on the UK list.
Among the more famous international items that could benefit from protection are Black Forest cuckoo clocks from Germany, Swiss watches, Sheffield steel, and Scottish tartan.
As such products regularly enjoy a good reputation, companies from other locations sometimes try to use their names to capitalise on their popularity by association, or in some cases by “passing off” as the original product.
A geographical indication is a name or sign referring to the place of origin of a product that symbolises traditional know-how and local culture.
The committee believes the extension of such protection could help inform consumers as well as preserve regions’ cultural heritage and boost local economies.
Food products have been protected at EU level since 1992 but to date there has been no similar legislation governing non-agricultural products.
In a non-binding resolution, the European Parliament voted 608-43 in favour of the committee’s proposal to extend geographical indications to handicraft and manufactured goods.
French MEP Virginie Rozière drafted the report and believes the rules would be a win-win situation.
She said: “Extending EU-wide protection of geographical indications would be beneficial not only for consumers, but also for tourism, culture, employment, and trade.
“It increases the attractiveness of a product for consumers, because the place of origin and specified characteristics are guaranteed and for producers because it allows them to increase the added value of their products.”
Ms Rozière added: “In France, in certain sectors such as textile, companies estimate that the protection of non-agricultural indications could lead to an increase of up to 25% in international demand.
“An effective EU scheme could foster the preservation of jobs in the place of origin, which are often rural areas.”
Ms Rozière said the measure was a first step towards a European protection of European know-how.
In July, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney introduced measures to strengthen the legal protection of geographical indications for food products.
The Irish products currently afforded such protection include Connemara Hill Lamb, Waterford Blaa, Imokilly Regato, and Timoleague brown pudding.
EU law protects such products under various designations including protected geographical indications, traditional specialities guaranteed, and protected designations of origin.
Among food products which have demonstrated such links are Parma ham, Feta cheese, Armagh Bramley apples, Lough Neagh eels, Down Comber potatoes, and Puy lentils.
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