Some non-agricultural products such as Porcelain of Limoges (France), Carrara Marble (Italy), and Donegal Tweed (Ireland) are linked to the natural environment and local traditions rooted in their place of origin.
It is well-known from world-wide experience in the agricultural sector, that the commercial use of place names (and any other name able to convey information on the geographical origin of products) can be an effective tool for signaling origin-based reputation and granting fair return on investments undertaken by local craftsmen. Moreover, this use can contribute to sustaining material and immaterial goods (i.e., natural resources used as raw materials, traditional methods of production, local reputation derived from the specific product characteristics, etc.). Based on that experience it can be posited that similarly positive effects could be achieved in the non-agricultural sector, depending on an appropriate tailoring and monitoring of protection under the applicable rules.
For now, the EU system for protection of geographical names (GIs) does not provide such rules, as it is limited to agricultural products and foodstuff (Reg. (EU) Nr. 2012/1151). However, its extension to non-agricultural products (“non-agri”) is under debate, making it crucial and timely to consider the design of the system in the light of relevant information available inter alia from national experience concerning the needs and ways of protecting non-agri GIs. On the national level, such protection is most frequently provided through individual trademarks, collective trademarks and certification marks. France is the only Member State providing for a sui generis system for protection of non-agri GIs, while others, including countries with a long-standing tradition in craftsmanship, such as Italy and Ireland, did not enact such specific legislation. .
The research project ‘Rules, Organizations and Opportunities for the Traditional Craft Sector’ (‘The ROOTS project’) aims to understand how local stakeholders, in three different national systems (France, Italy and Ireland), reacted to the need of protecting geographical names designating non-agricultural products, their motivations to engage in collective action and the incentives to the management of the rights derived from registration. More specifically, the following research questions shall be answered: (1) what are the most decisive factors influencing the product specification design in the non-agricultural sector? (2) How relevant are these factors for compliance with the product specifications and the performance of GIs as distinctive signs? (3) What are the practical challenges for local stakeholders in the non-agricultural sector to comply with legal requirements such as those currently provided by Reg. 1151/2012? Answering the questions is meant to provide insight which can be helpful for designing future EU legislation in the area.