Press release: Restrictions to the use of words bio, eco and organic in trade marks

28.3.2006

<div>As of 1 July 2006, words like bio, eco and organic, and other similar indications that refer to organic production, may not be used in the trade marks of conventionally produced foodstuffs. The labelling, advertising material or commercial documents of a foodstuff may only refer to organic production, if the product is truly organic. </div>

Council Regulation (2092/91) on organic production stipulates also on trade marks. The six-year transition period stated in this regulation for using trade marks, which include words like bio, eco, organic or other similar indications referring to organic production methods, also when the trade mark concerns the operator’s name, in labelling and advertising conventionally produced foodstuffs expires 1.7.2006. The purpose of the transition period was to allow the users of trade marks to adapt their operation to the new regulations.

In the European Union, the words bio, eco, organic, etc., both on their own and in combination with other words, and in any EU language, are considered to be indications that refer to organic production, unless they do not relate to an ingredient of agricultural origin, or they clearly have no connection with the method of organic production.

In other words, an indication such as bio does not always refer to organic production. In the case of food supplements, for example, it may also refer to the fact that the nutrient contained in the product is in a biological form that ensures good absorption or utilisability. Indications such as bio may also refer to an ingredient of the foodstuff, which is not of agricultural origin. Such ingredients include e.g. microbes, which are not governed by the Regulation on organic production.

The Finnish word “luomu” is always considered to refer to organic production. For example, the word ”luomu” in the company’s name appearing in labelling or in documents implies that the product concerned has been produced using organic methods.

A trade mark is also considered to clearly refer to organic production if it contains the word bio or a similar indication, and any one of the ingredients of the product is indicated to have been organically produced.

As of 1 July 2006, the use of trade marks relating to a product or an operator, which contain words like bio, eco and organic, and other similar indications that refer to organic production, is forbidden in the labelling, advertising material and commercial documents of conventionally produced foodstuffs and food supplements, if such an indication may give the purchaser an impression of an organically produced product. If the operator wishes to use such indications, the products shall be modified so that they meet the requirements specified for organically produced food.

The regulatory requirements that apply to manufacturing organic products and having organic products manufactured, as well as to the storage, wholesale trade and import of organic products, can be found e.g. in EurLex http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex/en/consleg/ , document ID 1991R2 092 

For more information, please contact: Ms. Minna-Maija Väänänen, Senior Officer, tel. +358 (0) 9 3931 542 and Ms. Eeva Fieandt, Senior Officer, tel. +358 (0) 9 3931 522

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