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Squaring the Circle? Approaches to Intellectual Property Rights and the TTIP

Maria Garcia

Despite strong political will, TTIP negotiations will be challenging. Teams will be forced to tackle the final regulatory hurdles in the transatlantic economic relationship, which decades of close cooperation and partial agreements, have failed to resolve. Within the Intellectual Property rights chapter, Geographic Indicators (GIs) present a particular challenge. The EU's GI system of protection is based on a specific location, and clashes with the USA's trademark system which allows the trademark of names considered of exclusive use to particular localities in the EU system. By engaging in the negotiations the USA admits that it will have to give ground on the GI matter to the EU, however it is not clear how this will proceed. By tracing the approaches to GIs in recent 'deep' EU and USA FTAs with third parties (South Korea, Peru/Colombia, Central America, Singapore) this paper seeks possible areas of agreement on the matter and addresses the question of how the EU and USA could square the circle of their divergent rules on this issue. The recent EU-Singapore FTA will be especially relevant as in it, rather than accepting a reduced list of EU GIs to protect (as had happened in past EU FTAs), Singapore agrees to set up its on GI registration system. Progress towards this system, and the results of the EU-Canada FTA (once made publicly available) will be analyzed to extrapolate possible solutions for GIs in TTIP from how other states have resolved the challenge of accommodation both the EU and USA system.  

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