Late last month, the European Commission approved for publication (pre-registration) a geographical indication (GI) application for the Danish cheese HAVARTI. This raised concern amongst interested industry groups, and should cause concern amongst all export-focused businesses. Similar to trademarks, and particularly certification marks, GIs are legal protection granting producers of a particular type of product from a specific geographical region the exclusive right to use the geographical region’s name (or a regionally-known name) on their products and in related promotions. Being an exclusive right, GIs exclude producers from other regions from labeling and marketing similar or identical products under the same GI name. This means, for example, that a U.S. sparkling wine can never be sold as CHAMPAGNE in the EU, or a Kenyan tea as DARJEELING in India. If registered, the EU HAVARTI GI would exclude non-Danish cheese producers from labeling and promoting their Havarti cheeses in the EU as HAVARTI.
So what’s concerning about the potential EU HAVARTI GI registration for non-dairy businesses? Well, industry groups such as the Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) argue that allowing the EU HAVARTI GI application to be registered would contravene international standards by prohibiting non-Danish cheese producers from labeling and promoting their own Havarti cheeses in the EU as HAVARTI, even if they meet recognized international Havarti cheese production standards. From an intellectual property perspective, the registration would arguably expand EU GI protections to common (generic) named products. Commonly named GIs such as DIJON for mustard and CHEDDAR for cheese have traditionally been restricted from GI protection due to their common vernacular usage. HAVARTI is a widely known cheese variety this is arguably as generic as these other excluded food names. By allowing HARVARTI’s potential GI registration, the European Commission could possibly allow other generic named products to be registered as GIs, thereby hindering the promotional efforts, and ultimately success of many foreign goods in the EU.
Although the potential HAVARTI EU GI registration only directly impacts the global dairy industry and the EU market, it does underscore general issues all export-focused businesses should be aware of concerning GIs. Many businesses are unfamiliar with GIs, much less the extent to which GIs can impact their expansion and success in new foreign markets. GIs are granted legal protections in multiple countries for a wide array of goods, and can significantly impact a business’ foreign operations.
Below are some GI issues businesses should consider when entering new foreign markets:
Know the Practical Differences Between GIs and Trademarks. Before understanding what GIs restrictions a business may face in a foreign market, a business needs to recognize how GIs and trademarks differ. Unlike trademarks, GIs do not indicate or represent a individual business or their goods and services. They instead represent protections for the local conditions—natural or human-made (depending on the country)—that give products from a region their qualities and reputation. Based on these localized and natural characteristics, GIs cannot be extended, shared, or transferred to producers outside the region, and cannot be cancelled once registered. Further, in many countries that grant GIs legal protection such as the EU, member state governments, not individual producers or businesses, prosecute GI infringement claims. This means a foreign business can be assured that their unauthorized use of a registered GI in a foreign market will more likely subject them to a greater risk of legal action in that country compared to the threat of a lawsuit from a individual trademark owner.
The bottom line is that GIs prohibit exporting businesses from promoting and selling their goods in a particular country under a registered GI without much recourse.
Determine if an Export Market Recognize GIs—and to What Degree. After understanding the important differences between GIs and trademarks, businesses need to then evaluate whether the markets they wish to export to have GI protections and the extent of such protections. Nearly all countries recognize GIs for wines and alcoholic beverages through their World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments. Under Articles 22 and 23 of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), WTO member states are required to extend specific GI protections for wines and alcoholic beverages, and to a reduced degree other agricultural and natural products. Most common law jurisdictions (U.S., Australia, and Japan, etc.) generally only extend GI protections to wines and alcohol beverages based on their WTO commitments. Yet, many countries, including several substantial markets, have gone beyond TRIPS’ minimum standards by providing enhanced GI protections to non-wine and alcohol agricultural products, and even non-agricultural products. The EU, China, India, and Russia, among others, extend the same level of legal protection to all agricultural and natural product GIs. Brazil, China, India, Russia, and Switzerland even extend GI protections to human made goods such as handcrafts and textiles.
Determine if There are Existing GI Registrations for Your Goods. Once a business determines whether the market(s) they wish to export their goods possess GI protections, they must evaluate whether the names of the goods they wish to use on their goods and related promotions are registered GIs. To do so, businesses must examine national GI registers in such export market(s).
Below are GI registers for some of the world’s major GI jurisdictions.
National GI Register
|National Institute of Industrial Property (Instituto Nacional da Propriedade Industrial -INPI)|
|General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine|
|The Controller General of Patents, Designs, and Trade Marks|
|Federal Institute of Industrial Property|
Earlier this summer, several news outlets reported that U.S. fast food conglomerate Yum! Brands, the operator of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), was considering taking legal action against a fast food restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand shockingly called “Hitler.” The Hitler restaurant was selling fast food under a logo similar to KFC’s iconic logo, replacing the face of Colonel Harland Sanders, KFC’s founder with his signature white suit and string tie, with the face of Adolph Hitler, former German Chancellor, warmonger and mass-murderer.
Despite the Hitler restaurant’s subsequent removal of their offensive interpretation of the KFC logo, the incident highlighted legal issues businesses may face in foreign markets beyond the unauthorized use of their marks (aka infringement). I’m talking about foreign trademark tarnishment. Trademark tarnishment is the unauthorized use of a well-known mark that degrades consumers’ positive associations with such mark, thereby harming the mark’s overall reputation.
What does this mean in an international context? Foreign trademark tarnishment can result in reduced foreign demand for a business’ goods or services, and hinder their ability to take advantage of foreign market opportunities. Although protecting against trademark tarnishment is generally difficult, KFC’s recent altercation with the Hitler restaurant shows ways in which foreign businesses can take advantage of foreign national trademark laws to protect their marks against tarnishment—even if such countries do not main specific protections against tarnishment.
Thai trademark law does not providing express protections against tarnishment. However, KFC’s logo likely qualifies for tarnishment-like protections in Thailand because it would qualify as a “well-known mark.” Unlike the U.S. and other common law countries (Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the United Kingdom, among others), Thailand is a “first to file” country, meaning that a mark can normally only obtain full protection under Thai law through registration with the Thai Department of Intellectual Property (DIP). However, Section 8(10) of the Thai Trademark Act (“Act”) acknowledges rights for unregistered well-known marks. Since 2005, an unregistered mark can be designated as a well-known mark under Thai trademark law if it meets several evidentiary criteria upon petition to the DIP’s Board of Well-Known Marks.
Similar to most countries, meeting such criteria in Thailand generally requires that a mark possess nationwide recognition. Article 16(2) of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and Article 16bis of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property require that a mark have nationwide recognition among consumers to qualify as a well-known mark. Likewise, Thailand requires that a mark have nationwide consumer recognition, yet this recognition can be established through predominant use of the mark abroad. Once established, a well-known mark is granted protections in all classes of goods and services.
In the case of KFC, it is likely that their logo qualifies as a well-known mark in Thailand based on KFC’s global and national recognition. KFC has more than 450 outlets in Thailand and approximately 15,000 outlets worldwide—not to mention extensive global advertising and promotional campaigns. These facts likely qualify the KFC logo for well-known mark protection in Thailand (upon petition), giving KFC broad protection under the Act for its logo among multiple if not all classes of goods and services.
By obtaining trademark protection, a trademark owner can normally prevent others from most forms of unauthorized use of such mark. Yet, you might asking yourself, o.k., while supplanting Adolf Hitler for Colonel Sanders is detestable, isn’t it permitted as free speech? The answer varies from country-to-country and from case-to-case. Several major markets including the U.S., the European Union and India, recognize that unauthorized users of a mark may defend against infringement or tarnishment claims through fair use, namely the ability to use a registered mark for legitimate free speech purposes such as parody. In the U.S., such a defense is upheld sometimes in a confusing way. For example, a U.S. Court found that the unauthorized noncommercial use of marks from a L.L. Bean catalogue can be parodied in an adult magazine, but the unauthorized use of the Dallas Cowboys football cheerleading team’s trademark in a pornographic film did not. In terms of Nazis and terrorists, a U.S. Court did allow an unauthorized user to conjure up Nazi and Al-Qaeda themes in their use of Wal-Mart’s well-known mark when such use was non-commercial.
Fortunately for KFC, Thailand does not appear to afford such a fair use defense. Section 109 of the Act prohibits any person who “imitates” a registered mark to mislead the public as to its true ownership, subjecting such user to fines up to 200,000 Baht (approx. US$ 6,250.00) and/or two years imprisonment. Due to the inherent broadness of “imitates” without any express fair use defenses provided under the Act, Thailand appears to possess little to no trademark fair use exceptions for parody or other recognized fair uses. Based on these facts, KFC would likely be able to seek enforcement of their trademark rights in their logo as a well-known mark against the Hitler restaurant.
What’s the takeaway? The moral of this story is that understanding foreign national IP laws can help businesses to find effective solutions to protect against tarnishment and other unauthorized uses abroad, even if such protections are not expressly provided in foreign national legislation. Although few business maintain as well-known marks as KFC’s logo, most businesses can adopt tailored foreign trademark protection strategies to prevent tarnishment or infringement of their marks. Businesses who have tarnishment issues in a particular market should consult with qualified local counsel to understand what protections can be afforded to their marks.
 Britt N. Lovejoy, Tarnishing The Dilution by Tarnishment Cause of Action: Starbucks Corp. v. Wolfe’s Borough Coffee, Inc. and V Secret Catalogue, Inc. v. Moseley, Compared, 26 Berkeley Tech. L. J. 623, 626 (2011) (citing J. Thomas McCarthy, 4 McCarthy On Trademarks & Unfair Competition § 24:89 (4th ed.)).
 See Somboon Earterasarun, Criteria In Determining Well-Known Trademarks in Thailand, Tilleke & Gibbins, (2010), available at http://www.tilleke.com/sites/default/files/2010-AsiaIP-Criteria-Well-Known-TM_0.pdf.
 See Keola R. Whittaker, Trademark Dilution in a Global Age, 27 U. Pa. J. Int’l Econ. L. 907, 937 (2006).
 Department of Intellectual Property Regulations on Recordal of Well-Known Marks B.E. 2548 (AD 2005), Ch. 7, 11.
 Say Sujintaya and Jomjai Jintasuwon, Well-known Trademarks in Thailand – A Bump in the Road, Baker & McKenzie, Mar. 23, 2012, available at http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=ce280c13-d28e-45f6-8a45-e45a9af8a74e.
 About KFC, KFC.com, available at www.kfc.com/about; Yum! Brands, Yum! Financial Data, Restaurant Counts (2012), available at http://yum.com/investors/restcounts.asp.
 See L.L. Bean, Inc. v. Drake Publishers, Inc., 811 F.2d 26, 34 (1st. Cir. 1987); compare Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, Inc. v. Pussycat Cinema, Ltd., 467 F. Supp. 366, 376 (S.D.N.Y. 1979).
 See Smith v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 537 F. Supp. 2d 1302, 1339-40 (N.D. Ga. 2008) (Use of the terms WAL★OCAUST and WAL-QAEDA in referencing Wal-Mart’s trademarks in tee-shirts was held to be protected parodic noncommercial speech).
Establishing methods for enforcing copyright protections online has become increasingly important to protecting a content owner’s rights in their works—as demonstrated by the recent launch of the Copyright Alert System (CAS) in the U.S. Most content owners do not have the same resources for online copyright enforcement as the Media and Internet service provider industries (two central sponsors of CAS). However, nearly all owners of protected works can take advantage of relatively inexpensive online copyright enforcement methods to protect their works in many of the world’s major markets. The most commonly used means of enforcement are takedown notices—demands sent from content owners to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) or website hosts to remove infringing content hosted on websites under their control. Depending on the circumstances, an ISP may be compelled upon receiving a takedown notice to remove infringing content from a hosted website, or in some cases, an entire website, for a temporary or extended amount of time.
Takedown notices can have substantial implications on an infringer’s online presence. A takedown can interrupt access to a infringer’s site, potential disrupt or halt their business, and can possibly result in the deletion of their site’s user comments and feedback. With these potentially serious consequences in mind, a rights holder should consider exhausting all alternatives before submitting a takedown notice against an infringing website.
Determining whether to and how to utilize takedown notices as a international copyright enforcement tool requires understanding a few things:
- What international legal protections does a rights owner have in their works
- Where are works being infringed online
- Where is an ISP subject to jurisdiction
- What countries have national takedown procedures and what are such countries’ requirements
- Further issues after a takedown notice is submitted
Let’s break these down a little further:
What International Legal Protections Does a Rights Owner Have in Their Works? A rights owner cannot consider utilizing takedown procedures abroad without first establishing that their works qualify for international copyright protection. A work qualifies for international copyright protection under the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (Berne Convention) when it becomes attached. Attachment requires that the author of the work be a national of a Berne Convention country (A list of Berne Convention countries is available here), the author is a habitual resident of a Berne Convention country, that the work is first published in a Berne Convention country, or that the work is published in a Berne Convention country within 30 days after an initial publishing in a non-Berne Convention country. If a work is attached through any of these means, it is treated as if the work originated in each Berne Convention country, and is then subject to each Berne Convention country’s copyright protection requirements in order to qualify for copyright protection in that specific country.
If a content owner has questions about whether their content qualifies for international copyright protection, they should consider consulting with their national copyright office or a qualified attorney.
Where are Works Being Infringed Online? To determine if any enforcement measure can be utilized, it is essential to know where in the world a work is being infringed online. If a work is being used without authorization and is available on the Internet in a particular country, it is likely being infringed in that particular country. For example, if a song by a Spanish artist, that qualifies as a protected work under the Berne Convention, is uploaded without authorization by a Malaysian file sharer to their website and is accessible throughout the entire world, it is being infringed in both Malaysia and Spain, as well as potentially in the other 164 Berne Convention countries.
Where is an ISP Subject to Jurisdiction? In order to effectively submit a takedown notice in a country where a protected work is infringed online, the ISP of the infringing website must be subject to that country’s laws in order for the ISP to be potentially compelled to comply with a takedown request. Generally, an ISP is only subject to the laws of a country where it is physically located or countries where it is engaged in enough commercial activity to establish personal jurisdiction. Determining an infringing site’s ISP can be completed through conducting a WHOIS database search. Such a search may also help identify the ISP’s host country by providing details about the ISP. However, this is not always a certainty.
If an ISP is located in the country where a work is infringed online, a rights owner only needs to establish whether that country has takedown procedures (see next section) to determine whether they can utilize takedown notices. However, determining whether an ISP is subject to the copyright laws of a country where it is not physically located is more difficult. In the U.S., a foreign ISP must at least have sufficient “minimum contacts” with the U.S. for the foreign-based ISP to be subject to U.S. law, and potential liability under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Int’l Shoe Co. v. Wash., 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945). Generally, such contacts have required purposeful interactions with U.S. citizens and commerce, such as marketing its services in the U.S. that would foreseeably bring the ISP under U.S. jurisdiction. Asahi Metal Indus. v. Superior Court, 480 U.S. 102, 112 (1987). It must also be “reasonable” to bring the ISP under U.S. jurisdiction, based on multiple factors. World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 292 (1980).
To illustrate these requirements using the previous example of the Spanish musician: Let’s assume that an Australian ISP hosts the Malaysian file-sharer website whose infringing content is available in the U.S., but the ISP does not market or make its services available in the U.S. In this case, the ISP would likely not be subject to U.S. law. Therefore, it is likely that the ISP is only subject to Australian law due to its location in Australia—and possibly Malaysian law if qualifying under Malaysian personal jurisdiction requirements. Alternatively, if the Australian ISP actively markets its services to U.S. citizens and businesses, the ISP may be subject to U.S. jurisdiction, and thereby potential liability under the DMCA. This would give the Spanish artist the ability to submit a U.S. takedown notice against the Australian ISP that would subject the ISP to potential liability under the DMCA if is fails to take action on the takedown notice.
Two important things to note:
- Failing to qualify for jurisdiction does not mean a rights holder is barred from demanding an ISP to takedown content that infringes a protected work. It simply means that an ISP may not be compelled or have incentive to remove infringing content because they are unlikely to face liability.
- Many content submission sites like YouTube and Facebook, as well as search engines such as Google and Bing, maintain their own takedown submissions procedures that are generally available to users regardless of their geographical location or where a protected work is infringed online.
What Countries Have National Takedown Procedures and What are Such Countries’ Requirements? To effectively utilize takedown procedure against an ISP, the ISP’s host country or country to which it is brought under personal jurisdiction must possess takedown procedures for rights holders, and such rights holders must comply with such procedural requirements. This requires understanding:
- Whether the country to which the ISP is subject to jurisdiction has takedown notice legislation
- If so, what are the country’s takedown notice requirements and procedures.
National Takedown Notice Legislation. Surprisingly, not all countries maintain takedown notice legislation for rights holders. Major markets including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India, Israel, Mexico and Russia are among those that don’t currently have takedown notice procedures. Despite such gaps, a large number of Berne Convention countries have enacted takedown notice legislation including the U.S., Australia, China, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan and the United Kingdom, to name a few.
National Takedown Notice Requirements: Below are the requirements for takedown notices in a number of major markets that have notice and takedown legislation.
Takedown Notice Requirements
|United States||DMCA (17 U.S.C. § 512(c)(3)(A))||
|Australia||Regulation 20I, Schedule 10, 1969 Copyright Regulations||
|China||Article 14, Regulations on the Protection of the Right to Network Dissemination of Information Networks||
|Japan||Article 3(2)(ii), Act on the Limitation of Liability for Damages of Specified Telecommunications Service Providers and the Right to DemandDisclosure of Identification Information of the Senders||
|South Africa||Section 77(1), The Electronic Communications and Transactions Act||
|United Kingdom||Section 124(a)(3), Communications Act 2003||
Note: Some of these national take down requirements are derived from translations. Rights holders should consult with National Copyright Offices or qualified attorneys in the jurisdictions they wish to enforce their rights in order to confirm these and other take down notice requirements.
Further Issues After a Takedown Notice is Submitted. Finally, it is important to note that there are issues to consider after a takedown notice has been submitted. First, an infringer may respond to a takedown notice by submitting a counter notice attesting to their rights in a protected work, even after their online content or website has been blocked or removed. Also, an ISP may refuse to act after a takedown notice has been submitted. If these circumstances arise, one should consider contacting a qualified attorney to discuss further actions.
Special thanks to co-author Kenneth Louis Strocsher, J.D. Candidate, 2014, Seattle University School of Law.