What is a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)? Concept and requirements for obtaining it

May 2021

When it comes to agricultural products and foodstuffs, there are many advantages that a designation of origin can offer them. However, these products must meet a series of requirements in order to obtain protection by means of a designation of origin.

What is a protected designation of origin?

A protected designation of origin (PDO) is a name that identifies a product originating in a specific place, region or, exceptionally, country, the quality or characteristics of which are essentially or exclusively due to a particular geographical environment, with the natural and human factors inherent therein; and, furthermore, the production stages of which take place entirely within the defined geographical area. This is laid down in Article 5 of Regulation (EU) No 1151/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 November 20201.

The main purpose of PDOs is to help producers of agricultural products and foodstuffs to inform consumers of the characteristics and qualities of the product they are buying. Thus, when a certain product obtains a PDO, this guarantees us:

1.- that there is fair competition for farmers and producers of agricultural products and foodstuffs with value-added characteristics and attributes;

2. that consumers have access to reliable information about these products;

3. respect for intellectual property rights; and

4. the integrity of the internal market.

The aim is to support agricultural and processing activities and production methods associated with high quality products, thereby contributing to the achievement of the objectives of cultural development policy.

It is essential in this respect that these products have certain characteristics which give added value to the product and that this value is provided as a result of the agricultural techniques or processing methods used for their production, or their place of production or marketing.

Therefore, the benefits that a PDO can provide to a product focus above all on its quality standard, which helps the producer, brand or company to generate a reputation in the market and global recognition for its special characteristics of production and exclusivity.

In this way, producers are not only legally protected against counterfeiting, but also maintain a constant quality during all stages of production and processing of the product, allowing them access to international markets thanks to this guarantee of originality and preserving the traditional methods of cultivation, which means providing great security to the consumer knowing that the product they are acquiring complies with the rules and quality standards.

What are the necessary requirements of a PDO?

Article 7 of the aforementioned Regulation (EU) No 1151/2012 establishes a “specification of conditions” to be met by products that obtain protection through a designation of origin. These requirements are:

1.- that the product has the name that is protected as an AO, as that name is used in trade or in common parlance;

2.- a description of the product, including, where appropriate, the raw materials used in it, as well as its main physical, chemical, microbiological or organoleptic characteristics;

3. a definition of the specific geographical area;

4. evidence that the product originates in the specified geographical area;

5. a description of the method of obtaining of the product and, where appropriate, the authenticity and invariability of local methods, as well as information on packaging where the applicant group so determines and provides sufficient specific justification relating to that product that packaging must take place within a defined geographical area in order to safeguard quality, guarantee origin or ensure the necessary controls;

6. data determining the link between quality or characteristics of the product and the geographical environment or, as the case may be, the link between a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the product and the geographical origin;

7.- the name and address of the authorities or entities verifying compliance with all of the above characteristics; and

8.- any specific labelling rules applicable to the product in question.

Undoubtedly, when a product complies with all these characteristics, so that its production method and qualities are fully linked to a specific geographical area, the Protected Designation of Origin is one of the greatest incentives that the producer or producers in question can count on, since, in this way, they are committed to quality, culture and local consumption. This is beneficial for both producers and purchasers, i.e. consumers, for whom the safety and protection of the products must always be guaranteed.

Eduardo Zamora | Sara del Río