The Consortium for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese applied to register the Geographical Indication (GI) ‘Parmigiano Reggiano’. The GI application was accepted and published for opposition purposes on 10 May 2019.
The deadline to file a notice of opposition was 21 June 2019.
On 10 June 2019, the US Dairy Export Council (the opponent) requested a time extension ‘for up to 6 months’ to file its notice of opposition. The opponent’s request was based on fairly standard grounds, namely that: the opponent was recently made aware of the publication of the applicant’s GI; the agent had just been appointed and required more time to take instruction; more time was needed to prepare evidence.
The Registrar objected to the opponent’s request for a time extension because the opponent’s stated justification for the extension failed to show ‘good and sufficient reason’. The Registrar set a hearing date for 23 July 2019 to hear the arguments on the request for an extension.
At the hearing, the Registrar stated that whether or not good and sufficient reason has been established depends on the facts of each case. In this regard, it was important to note that Singapore’s GI legislation had been enacted to fulfil obligations under the European Union–Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA).
In anticipation of the EUSFTA coming into force, a list of key EU GIs had been published as early as January 2013, and it included the applicant’s GI. The opponent also participated in a public consultation. Accordingly, the Registrar found that the opponent had notice of the applicant’s impending application and ample time to prepare for potential opposition. The Registrar also stated that allowing a time extension might delay the implementation of the EUSFTA and the corresponding benefits for Singapore businesses. These include the removal of certain barriers to trade and stronger border enforcement measures.
In light of these factors, the Registrar held that good and sufficient reason for the time extension had not been established, and the request was refused. In addition, the opponent had not provided any indications as to the basis of its proposed opposition. It was also noted that the opponent did not object to the applicant’s GI per se, but to the common name ‘Parmesan’. However, Singapore’s GI legislation states that objection to a possible translation of a GI is not grounds for refusal. Hence, the opposition would have failed even if it had been allowed to proceed.
As a result, the Registrar denied the opponent’s request and, consequently, the GI application proceeded to registration.
It can be concluded that seemingly straightforward applications also have to be considered in the context of these wider policy implications.
To learn more about GIs in South-East Asia, please consult our GI guide here.