Great news for London based smoked salmon producers H Forman & Son: they have secured the famous PGI status for their London Cure Smoked Salmon. PGI stands for Protected Geographic Indication and this status is awarded to products which have a specific geographic origin and which have qualities or a reputation linked to that origin. Well known examples of UK products with this status are Cornish Sardines, Melton Mowbray Pork Pies and, of course, Cornish Pasties.
Unlike well known intellectual property rights such as trade marks and patents, PGIs do not belong to individual rights owners, instead they protect products produced in a specific area in a specific way, no matter who produces them.
It took H Forman & Son 4 years to complete the application process, which for them depended on the fact that the smoking of salmon in the UK had originated in the East End of London amongst Jewish communities. The long established process they apply uses minimal ingredients: Scottish Salmon; rock salt; and oak smoke. It also involves a considerable amount of skill to produce the London Cure Smoked Salmon as the process relies on the human touch instead of any mechanical process.
This is the first PGI awarded for a product produced in London so the achievement has been feted by not only H Forman & Son but by many others too.
WIPO describes a Geographical Indication (GI) as
“..a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. In order to function as a GI, a sign must identify a product as originating in a given place. In addition, the qualities, characteristics or reputation of the product should be essentially due to the place of origin. Since the qualities depend on the geographical place of production, there is a clear link between the product and its original place of production.”
As with many aspect of the law, the future of the PGI status in the UK is not certain given the looming impact of Brexit. As my colleague James Martin recently commented:
“Geographical Indications … are governed by an EU wide regime. The EU regime is itself subordinate to several international agreements which provide for a degree of international reciprocity. Nevertheless, by the time of ‘effective’ Brexit the UK will need to have introduced its own domestically administered regime for the protection of Geographical Indications in the UK. Transitional provisions and ‘grandfathering’ rights recognising existing EU wide Geographical Indications within the UK is a possible route to achieve this but whether this route is adopted awaits to be seen.”
A different case that further demonstrates the essential need for the reputation and production of the product to be linked to a specific geographical region is the PGI for Newcastle Brown Ale. This well known ale from Newcastle was protected with PGI status. However in 2007 this badge of honour was handed back when the manufacturers relocated their factory out of Newcastle only a short distance away to Gateshead. PGI status will only be awarded and maintained where production, processing or preparation of the product take place in the specific region – in this case Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. Importantly the manufacturers of Newcastle Brown Ale were the only producers of this ale and they were not prepared to share the secret ingredients of their brew, which was protected as a trade secret. Refusing to make public the key ingredients would not be consistent with PGI status, which, as explained above does not provide protection for individual manufacturers, but instead gives protection to a particular product produced by any number of producers, in a certain way that is inextricably linked to a certain geographic area.
Here are some other UK products which qualify for PGI status:
Kentish ale Kentish strong ale Rutland bitter Cornish pasty
Dorset Blue cheese London cure smoked salmon
Orkney Scottish Island Cheddar Teviotdale cheese
Traditional Ayrshire Dunlop cheese Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese
Gloucestershire cider Gloucestershire perry Herefordshire cider
Herefordshire perry Worcestershire cider Worcestershire perry
Arbroath Smokies Whitstable oysters Welsh beef Welsh lamb
West Country beef West Country lamb Armagh bramley apples
Fenland celery Newmarket sausage Stornoway Black Pudding
Traditional Cumberland sausage English regional wine
Welsh regional wine Cornish sardines
New season Comber potatoes/Comber earlies Lough Neagh Eels
Scottish farmed salmon Scottish wild salmon
Traditional Grimsby smoked fish West Wales coracle caught salmon
West Wales coracle caught sewin Whitstable oysters Scotch beef
Scotch lamb Welsh beef Welsh lamb West Country beef
West Country lamb Pembrokeshire early potatoes/Pembrokeshire earlies
Vale of Evesham asparagus Carmarthen ham Melton Mowbray pork pie
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