How is the EU innovating international trade? A case study of the Intellectual Property Provisions on Geographical Indications in the EU-ACP EPAs

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Law


The EU is encouraging a number of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries to include GIs in the EPAs. On 10 June 2016, South Africa, as part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), became the first ACP country to list three agricultural GIs in the EPA (Art. 16 & Protocol 3). Additionally, both the Cariforum EPA (Art. 145 (A)(2) and the East African Community (EAC) EPA also contains provisions on GIs (Art. 74). Yet, further research is needed to understand the legal and socio-economic implications of the EU's extra-territorial application of its very own GI system in these third countries.
The rationale for the research is three-fold and this shall form the basis of my inquiry. First, the EU is offensive in pushing for ACP countries to protect GIs in the EPAs (externally), while GIs is a defensive issue for the EU internally. Second, and at the multilateral (WTO) level, there is a contention between the EU preference for GIs versus the US preference for trademarks. There is a coalition of 108 countries, including the ACP group that support the establishment of a binding multilateral register open to all GIs, and the extension of Article 23 of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS, currently just covers wines) to all products. Third, there is no consensus on the trade-development nexus of GIs. In other words, there is no consensus on the potential of GIs to add value to third country agricultural products, despite the potential and logic that exists at the EU-level of GI promotion.
In response to the research question, I aim to investigate the issues and fulfill the objectives of my research. The first objective is to understand EU competence in these mixed agreements, especially in relation to GIs, which are considered as 'trade-related' issues of innovation and intellectual property' aspects of the agreement. The second objective is to investigate the implications at the multilateral level, notably vis-à-vis WTO+ issues, TRIPs, Special and Differentiated Treatment (SDT) and the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) principle, as well as possible implications of the UK exit from the EU (commonly referred to as 'Brexit'). The third objective is to investigate the legal underpinnings of certain policy rhetoric, which currently pose some legal ambiguity, from terms such as 'provisional implementation' to indicators used to measure 'development'.
The methodological investigation will be analytical and interdisciplinary. The framework of this theoretical inquiry is the EPA between the EU and the SADC EPA states on the one hand, and the Cariforum EPA states on the other. This dual focus allows for a comparative analysis of the EU innovating in two bilateral-regional FTAs through the EU's extra-territorial application of its very own GI system. An analytical approach refers to the investigation at the policy-level through a review of the legislative, as well as other relevant non-legislative sources, especially given the plurality of IP rule-making venues (Araujo, 2016, p. 141). An interdisciplinary approach would build on existing empirical data that I have already gathered from my research and publications on the EPAs, as well as my participation and membership of technical working groups in Brussels (e.g. CF EU EPA Consultative Committee, Art. 232).
The expected outcomes and impact of my research is the creation of valuable knowledge on this increasingly important and prominent area of trade-related provisions on innovation and IP, by using the inclusion of GI provisions in the CF and SADC EPAs as case studies.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2094339 Studentship ES/P000630/1 01/10/2018 01/10/2022 Yentyl Williams