Earlier this month, the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement on Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications was adopted by Lisbon Agreement members.
The Lisbon System, which is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), offers protection for an Appellation of Origin in the 28 Lisbon Agreement countries - a list that France, Italy, Israel, Iran, Cuba and Mexico.
Roquefort (France), Comté (France), Gorgonzola (Italy) and Asiago (Italy) are among the food names protected by the Lisbon System.
The Geneva Act, signed by 13 Lisbon Agreement members on May 21, permits the addition of GIs as well as Appellations of Origin to the Lisbon System.
The accession of certain intergovernmental organisations to the Lisbon Agreement is now also permitted - opening the door for the European Union (EU) to join and extend protection of its GIs outside Europe.
While welcomed by the likes of EU Agriculture Commission, Phil Hogan, and OriGIn, dairy industry stakeholders in the US - a WIPO Member State - are less than impressed.
"WIPO's decision to force non-Lisbon members into second-class status at this conference strips the resulting outcome of its legitimacy as an international agreement," said Tom Suber, president, US Dairy Export Council (USDEC).
"It's clear that this agreement is an effort to promote the interests of GI holders at the expense of generic users, rather than trying to balance both those concerns in good faith," he added.
Jim Mulhern, president and CEO, the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), added: "The treaty and its proposed changes are clearly aimed at preventing competitors such as dairy producers and processors in the United States and other non-European countries from using names in international trade that they have used for decades."
"Cluttering up negotiations"
Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and EU, which began in July 2013, have been hindered by the issue of GIs.
The EU's Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) schemes - known collectively as GIs - recognise a product as originating in an area where a "given quality, reputation or other characteristic" is essentially attributable to its geographical origin.
US products that use food names with GI status, such as Feta, Gorgonzola and Asiago, cannot currently be sold in the EU.
European TTIP negotiators are demanding the US recognize and protect its GIs.
Speaking with DairyReporter.com earlier this month, Randy Mooney, chairman, NMPF, said the issue of GIs is "cluttering up the negotiations."