U.S. lawmakers share concerns by the American dairy industry that changes to a 1958 treaty could endanger their rights to use common names in global trade.
“The proposed changes in the Lisbon Agreement are clearly aimed at preventing U.S. dairy producers and processors, and others, from using names in international trade that they have used for decades, such as feta, parmesan, havarti, asiago and others," said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, in a statement.
In a Feb. 12 bipartisan letter submitted to the director of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), House and Senate leaders said proposed changes to the Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin “would have a significant impact on companies across the globe whose business depends on the use of common or generic names or on the integrity of established trademarks."
Lawmakers said the views of all WIPO members to the proposed changes aren’t being adequately considered. The WIPO, a Geneva, Switzerland-based agency of the United Nations that was established in 1967, administers the 57-year-old Lisbon Agreement.
“The revisions are scheduled to be taken up for consideration and approval at this year’s Diplomatic Conference, but contrary to the common WIPO protocol of the last quarter century, non-parties to the Lisbon Agreement are currently not permitted to fully participate," declared Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and seven other members of Congress who are chairmen or ranking members of various committees, in the letter.
The dairy industry said the WIPO needs to be more open-minded to considering opinions on the proposed changes to the treaty.
“Unless these meetings are opened to the larger WIPO membership, the amendments completed by 30 or so countries could adversely affect the rights of all WIPO members to use common food names in global trade," said Connie Tipton, president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association, in a statement. “The proper protocol must be maintained to ensure the continued growth of U.S. dairy exports."