Cheers! New EU rules to strengthen GI protection for wine, spirit drinks and agri-food products come into force on 13 May 2024


On 23 April 2024, a new EU regulation aimed at enhancing the protection of geographical indications (GIs) for wine, spirit drinks and agricultural products, and other quality schemes for agricultural products was published in the Official Journal. The new rules, that enter into force on 13 May 2024, provide for a streamlined registration procedure, a strengthened role of producer groups, and improved provisions on GI protection (both online and offline) and sustainability.

Background on Geographical Indications (GIs) for wine, spirit drinks and agri-food products

GIs are intellectual property rights that provide legal protection for names of products with a specific geographical connection or that are made using traditional methods. GI protection guarantees a product’s characteristics, reputation, authenticity, and origin. It also protects the product name from misuse, imitation, or evocation. For agri-food products, wine and spirit drinks, GIs include protected designations of origin (PDO) - like Grana Padano- and protected geographical indications (PGI and GI for spirit drinks), such as Huître de Normandie and Irish Whisky.

In addition to GIs, the EU safeguards Traditional Specialities Guaranteed (TSGs), which are names of food and agricultural products highlighting the traditional aspects of the product (e.g., production method) without being linked to a specific geographical area. Think Jamón Serrano and Mozzarella Tradizionale.

Furthermore, the EU extends protection to 'mountain products,' originating from the EU's mountainous regions, as well as to goods produced in the EU’s outermost regions, including the Canary Islands and French Guiana.

Over 3500 names of wines, spirit drinks and agri-food products are currently registered as GIs in the EU. The top five countries by number of registered names are Italy, France, Spain, Greece and Portugal.

Revision of EU GI rules and main improvements in the new regulation

GIs have been protected in the EU for over 30 years, in steps - from the 1970s (wine) to 1992 (agricultural products and foodstuffs). Following the Commission’s evaluation of the existing GI rules, which pointed at room for improvement, the EU institutions have cooperated to strengthen GIs, specifically to increase their uptake in the EU and improve the provisions on online protection and sustainability. After over two years since the Commission’s original proposal for a new regulation, the EU institutions reached a final agreement last month, which culminated with the Council’s stamp of approval, followed by the signing of the regulation by the Presidents of both the Council and Parliament on 11 April 2024.

The main improvements covered by the new regulation include:

  • The role of producer groups being strengthened in overseeing their GIs and supporting their members within intellectual property enforcement networks, by exercising the responsibilities and privileges given to them;
  • A heightened protection of GIs – this includes online protection such as geo-blocking (geographical access barriers) for domain names containing GIs. The EUIPO is assigned with the set up of a domain name information and alert system for these purposes;
  • Producer groups can be assigned as “recognised producer groups” by the Member States. These groups are conferred exclusive rights to represent and make decisions for all producers linked to the specified product under the GI;
  • The Commission’s role in scrutinising applications for registering products as GIs is confirmed;
  • A streamlined and more effective registration procedure; and
  • Improved protection for GIs that are ingredients in prepacked food wherein the aforementioned “recognised producer groups” must be notified with the percentage of the ingredient being indicated.

The regulation was published in the Official Journal on 23 April 2024. It comes into force on 13 May 2024 (i.e., 20 days after its publication), although some provisions will only apply from 1 January 2025.


It is exciting times in the EU GI space. Just a few months after the entry into force, last November, of a brand-new regulation on GIs for craft and industrial products, this long-awaited new regulation on GIs for wine, spirit drinks and agri-food products is good news for both consumers and producers, especially in the agri-food industry. The sector now has a unified legislative root, enabling the strengthening, competitiveness, and sustainability of regional products through promoting activities that add value to traditionally produced goods. This ties in with trading in a given geographical area where we may see increased trade, consequently augmenting the competitiveness of small producers, SMEs and many other businesspersons down the chain.

Fundamentally though, the addition of ‘recognised producer groups’ and heightened protection together open the doors to procedures with reduced costs as there are fewer authorised producers making executive decisions whilst ensuring that the GIs are further protected online since infringement doesn’t stop offline. We can likely see more harmonised decisions between recognised producer groups and the respective registration processes by further streamlining it.

The regulation is therefore likely to promote economic growth and rural development, specifically safeguarding the biodiversity of local breeds and plant varieties for producers whilst including a greater transparency for the consumers and preserving cultural heritage.

The new rules materially enhance the protection of GIs, particularly based on the following: (i) the regulation specifically refers to the (broad) definition of ‘evocation’ of a GI in accordance with the established case-law of the Court of Justice (according to this case-law, ‘evocation’ may arise, for example, also in case of ‘conceptual proximity’ to the GI – see Queso Manchego, Case C-614/17); and (ii) the new rules specifically protect GIs, not only against the ‘exploitation’, but also against the ‘weakening’, ‘dilution’ or ‘detriment’ to their reputation. Given this broader protection of GIs, especially those with a reputation, in the future we may see an increased number of disputes between GI holders and trade mark owners (and other businesses in general). Trade mark owners and businesses should obtain legal advice before using (and/or applying to register) names, labels or packaging devices that may be deemed in conflict with a GI, especially once the new regulation comes into force in a couple of weeks.

Co-authored by Ayse Neva Sark, Solicitor Apprentice