The Act respecting reserved designations and added-value claims

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The value of a designation is often recognized by imitations found on the market. The Act Respecting Reserved Designations and Added-Value Claims enables reservation of the use of a designation only to operators who have obtained certification for their products against the approved certification manual and from a CARTV accredited certifier. It also enables prosecution of those using the designation fraudulently.

By 1996, Quebec has innovated by adopting the Act Respecting Reserved Designations (RSQ, Chapter A-20.02). It was intended to support efforts to market food products collectively that distinguished themselves from others products of their class by their particular characteristics or production mode.

To better meet the needs expressed by the sector after 10 years, the Bill 137, An Act Respecting Reserved Designations and Added-Value Claims (LARTV) was adopted in April 2006 and was put in force in 2008. A new Regulation Respecting Reserved Designations published in August 2010 finalizes the framework of this legislation.

The protection conferred by the LARTV is limited to the Quebec territory. This Act, was developed taking into account what happens in particular in Europe regarding protection of agri-food designations so that our products bearing a reserved designation can enjoy a credibility beyond our borders.

Background

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Certain designations labelled on food products suggest a positive image that may give products added value in the eyes of consumers. Producers and processors therefore use these designations to attribute value to products.

By mentioning a specific production method (e.g. organic production method), referring to an origin or a geographical indication in the product name (e.g. Agneau de Charlevoix), or by using a designation often referring to a specificity, often traditional, these designations reflect the authenticity of a product by highlighting its specific characteristics.

Intellectual protection

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Designations used to refer to a product’s authenticity are not easily protected by trademarks. They include words or generic terms whose use falls under public domain and which, in fact, cannot offer exclusive use, which is normally granted to trademarks.

For example, a geographical indication on a product may not be reserved for a single producer or a single company within a region. Similarly, a production method shared by several producers cannot be reserved for a single producer. It is legal to specify the products’ origin or production method on their labels if the claim is accurate.

With no real intellectual protection, these public designations are sometimes illegitimately used by producers or companies, thereby taking advantage of the image projected by authentic products. In this context, products that require greater efforts and more stringent requirements to produce than common products may be imitated and their authentic characteristics may be threatened.

For this reason, under the Act Respecting Reserved Designations and Added-Value Claims, Québec has the legal means to protect the identity of food products that bear specific designations. Unlike a trademark belonging to a specific company, a designation is a public term that is reserved and controlled by the government or its appointed representative. In Québec, the Conseil des appellations réservées et des termes valorisants (CARTV) is the authority officially appointed for this purpose.

Production method

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The recognition of a production method is the recognition of a specific way of producing products that uses various new techniques and production constraints that go beyond current regulations.

This is true of organic products, whose production method authenticity was recognized in Québec in 2000. The organic designation thus establishes additional criteria in relation to current regulations in order to reduce the impact of agriculture on the environment.

Organic designation

Organic agriculture requires specific production methods that are subject to very strict regulations.Organic operators give priority to using cultivation methods that promote environmental conservation and guarantee the sustainable of agricultural activity. These operators try to maintain diversity within their livestock and vegetable production, often using varieties or species that are less common or that have quite simply been forgotten.

Food and products resulting from organic agricultural production methods exclude the use of genetically modified organisms, pesticides, artificial or soluble fertilizers, they limit the use of inputs and they favour working methods that involve the recycling of natural organic matter and crop rotation.To learn more about how to benefit from organic designations, visit our section dedicated exclusively to organic food: Organic Designation

Advantages of the act respecting reserved designations and added-value claims

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The Act Respecting Reserved Designations and Added-Value Claims makes it possible to officially recognize authentic products. This provides many advantages for consumers, producers, processors and the entire rural community involved in product development. The Act can also be used to promote Québec's agricultural and food heritage, typical Québec products, and a positive image of provincial or regional culture.

Québec's Act Respecting Reserved Designations and Added-Value Claims applies to any individual or group that manufactures agricultural foods and products and that wants to distinguish their products from common products in the same category, and also wants to maintain control over the characteristics of their products and to prevent others from imitating or appropriating their designation.
 

Protection for know-how

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When a designation is recognized, the product’s characteristics are included in a specification manual. Products that are not certified in accordance with this specification manual may not use the designation.

When specific collective know-how is needed to produce products, the description of the characteristics of this shared know-how in the designation’s specification manual makes it possible to protect it.
 

Categories of reserved designations provided for in Québec

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It is important to understand that different official indications (AO, PGI, etc.) are used primarily to determine the elements on which the product’s recognition will be based, i.e. how the product and its designation are authentic.

A product’s designation or name may be widely recognized. For example, the “Champagne” name is recognized around the world. This type of designation (PDO) is only a tool to protect its name: Champagne.

Regardless of the products in question, a reserved designation system can be adapted to protect designations and authenticity.
 

Protected Geographical Indication (PGI)

A Protected Geographical Indication establishes a link between a product and a region by recognizing that a product has special characteristics attributed to its production region.

In this context, some of the product’s characteristics, as well as its reputation, link the product with a particular region. The product is thus geographically identified with its region.

In the case of a Protected Geographical Indication, only the product preparation stage that imparts its characteristics must be located within the designation region. The product may enjoy a widely recognized reputation associated with its region, but the link with the terroir is only apparent during one of the production, processing or preparation stages. Product preparation stages that are not specific to the region can thus be carried out outside the designation region.

Application Guide. Designation of Origin (DO). Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) (in French) 

 

Designation of Specificity

The designation of specificity is a designation category that focuses on a characteristic rather than on a specific region of origin.

The designation of specificity recognizes a product’s traditional or specific characteristics. For a traditional specificity designation, it may be characteristics influenced by the product’s history, such as traditional raw materials, traditional composition, or traditional production or processing methods. If certain specific know-how was used to prepare a product, the recognition of a traditional designation of specificity recognizes that only products that comply with this know-how will be authentic.

For a non-traditional designation of specificity, it may be a characteristic derived from the production method, or any other characteristics that make the product unique.

In the case of a designation of specificity, the product may be produced throughout Quebec, regardless of a specific product region.
 

Guide de demande d’une appellation de spécificité (AS) ou d’une appellation de spécificité traditionnelle [PDF] (In French)

Object of the Act

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A reserved designation is the public recognition of the authenticity of products with regards to designations used to promote them.

The purpose of this public recognition is to prevent encroachment, protect authentic products, and protect the know-how and production regions that impart specific characteristics to products. The reservation of a designation by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food reflects the public recognition of a product’s authenticity and its designation.

Products that use public designations that cannot be registered under the Trade-marks Act for promotion purposes can apply for recognition of their names as designations, thereby protecting their characteristics, reputation and often the terroir where they are produced.

Product differentiation

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Niche or specialty products increasingly found on store shelves do not all have the same characteristics or specificities. Some are typical of specific regions, whereas others are manufactured according to traditional methods, etc.

The recognition of different product characteristics based on various designations makes it possible to identify the different qualities of Québec’s specialty products.
 

Reserved designations: one of many commercial identification strategies

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This section provides a general description of the various commercial identification strategies available to operators when marketing their products, including:

  • Operator or company names
  • Trademarks
  • Certification marks
  • Reserved designations

For more details on trademarks and certification, you can read the Guide to Trade-marks by the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) [www.opic.ic.gc.ca]
 

Ordinary trademarks

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This strategy relies on the trademark rather than on the manufacturer to identify the product. Campbell’s Soup, for example, uses the V8 trademark to identify its vegetable cocktail. Once the reputation of a product bearing this trademark has been established, manufacturers can focus their advertising on the trademark rather than on their name.

An ordinary mark consists in a word (or words), a design, or a combination of these, used to identify the goods or services of one person or organization and to distinguish these goods or services from those of others in the marketplace. You are not required to register your trade-mark — using a mark for a certain length of time can establish your ownership under common law. However, registration is direct evidence of ownership.

The protection, communication and management of ordinary trademarks are the responsibility of trademark holders.

Certification marks

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A more community-based strategy is to associate certain products with a given region or a group of producers for one or more specific factors. This identification may be used as a source label for place-based products by means of a certification mark registered and managed by an organization that has set out its conditions of use in its specification manual. The idea behind a certification mark is for a group of companies with shared interests to federate around a brand or around a specification manual. This policy results in the identification of the characteristics of a product sought after by consumers. If based on credible reasons and elements, the first result of this strategy is to increase product sales volumes and the second is to attract tourists who want to learn more about their manufacturing method, as well as flavours, when they are associated with a particular region.

The protection, communication and management of an ordinary trademark are the responsibility of organizations that hold the certification mark.

Operator or company names

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One of the first strategies is both the simplest and the most difficult to use. It relies on the reputation of those operators (producers or processors) who have already demonstrated their know-how. Both the business and consumers demand products with labelling showing that they were manufactured by persons or companies known for their concern for quality.

Reserved designations

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Reserved designations are more precise and are limited to the products they target, but they also allow public recognition of a product’s authenticity. They result from the collective effort of a group of operators wishing to have an existing product recognized and protected with respect to their added value, often developed over decades or generations.

Reserved designations refer only to product types whose particular characteristics are known to consumers. These product types may be production methods (e.g. organic production) or specific characteristics related to their origin (e.g. Agneau de Charlevoix) and specificity (e.g. pre-salted lamb).

The protection of reserved designations is the responsibility of the public domain. However, the communication and management of designations are the responsibility of designation applicant groups.
 

Types of authenticiy

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The Act Respecting Reserved Designations and Added-Value Claims, which came into force on June 15, 2008, provides for the recognition of reserved designations based on various types of authenticity:

  • authenticity of the production method
  • authenticity of the link with a terroir
  • authenticity of the specificity

By means of these three designation categories, the Act guarantees consumers that products are authentic, meaning that they are:- based on production methods that are carefully defined by specification manuals;

  • produced or processed within specific regions;
  • manufactured in accordance with a tradition. 

For all of these designation categories, the Act provides for a certification by an independent body. For all the above reasons (public recognition by the Minister, independent certification), reserved designations are an unquestionable pledge of credibility.
 

What designation should I choose for my product?

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Principles

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When designations are recognized by the Minister, on the basis of specification manuals that demonstrate the authenticity of products and describe the production rules, exclusive use is granted only to products that are certified compliant with the specification manuals by an accredited certification body.

Terroir products

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In interpreting the Act, products linked with their terroir are products that have designations relating to links with a terroir, either the Designation of Origin (DO) or Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).

However, the "terroir" claim as such is not reserved as a designation. It is the name of the designation that receives protection.
 

Recognition

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To be credible, designation recognition must be based on elements that are unquestionable, justified and demonstrated by the reserved designation application.

The CARTV therefore carries out an in-depth analysis of the application and its context in order to accurately determine the product’s authenticity and, if appropriate, justify its added value. A public consultation phase is also carried out for new reserved designation applications or for major changes to specification manuals of previously recognized reserved designations.

Main steps for reviewing designation recognition applications (based on the CARTV’s regulations for reviewing designation recognition applications)


 

Register of Quebec Recognized Reserved Designations

Designation relating to a link with a terroir:
“PGI” - « Vin du Québec»

 

Recognized since November 17, 2018, pursuant to a legal notice published in the Gazette officielle du Québec, authorized by Quebec's Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Inspection and certification system:

  • Competent Authority: Conseil des appellations réservées et des termes valorisants (CARTV)
  • Accreditation Manual in force:
    1. General requirements for bodies operating product certification system, included in the International Standard ISO/IEC 17065:2012;
    2. Supplementary requirements imposed in accordance with the Regulations Pertaining to Accreditation, that have been adopted by the Board.
  • Approved Specification Manual: IGP- Vin du Québec
  • Control Body : Écocert Canada

Designation relating to a link with a terroir:
“Neuville Sweet Corn” - « Maïs sucré de Neuville»

 

Recognized since June 14, 2017, pursuant to a legal notice published in the Gazette officielle du Québec, authorized by Quebec's Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Inspection and certification system:

  • Competent Authority: Conseil des appellations réservées et des termes valorisants (CARTV)
  • Accreditation Manual in force:
    1. General requirements for bodies operating product certification system, included in the International Standard ISO/IEC 17065:2012;
    2. Supplementary requirements imposed in accordance with the Regulations Pertaining to Accreditation, that have been adopted by the Board.
  • Approved Specification Manual: IGP- Maïs sucré de Neuville
  • Control Body : Écocert Canada

Designation relating to a specificity:
“Fromage de vache de race Canadienne ” - "Canadienne Cow Cheese"

 

Recognized since March 9, 2016, pursuant to a legal notice published in the Gazette officielle du Québec, authorized by Quebec's Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Inspection and certification system:

  • Competent Authority: Conseil des appellations réservées et des termes valorisants (CARTV)
  • Accreditation Manual in force:
    1. General requirements for bodies operating product certification system, included in the International Standard ISO/IEC 17065:2012;
    2. Supplementary requirements imposed in accordance with the Regulations Pertaining to Accreditation, that have been adopted by the Board.
  • Approved Specification Manual: AS- Fromage de vache de race Canadienne
  • Control Body : Écocert Canada

Designation relating to a link with a terroir:
“Québec Ice Cider” - "Cidre de glace du Québec"

 

Recognized since December 30, 2014, pursuant to a legal notice published in the Gazette officielle du Québec, authorized by Quebec's Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Inspection and certification system:

  • Competent Authority: Conseil des appellations réservées et des termes valorisants (CARTV)
  • Accreditation Manual in force:
    1. General requirements for bodies operating product certification system, included in the International Standard ISO/IEC 17065:2012;
    2. Supplementary requirements imposed in accordance with the Regulations Pertaining to Accreditation, that have been adopted by the Board.
  • Approved Specification Manual: Indication géographique protégée – Cidre de glace du Québec
  • Control Body : Écocert Canada

Designation relating to a link with a terroir:
“Québec Icewine” - "Vin de glace du Québec"

 

Recognized since December 30, 2014, pursuant to a legal notice published in the Gazette officielle du Québec, authorized by Quebec's Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Inspection and certification system:

  • Competent Authority: Conseil des appellations réservées et des termes valorisants (CARTV)
  • Accreditation Manual in force:
    1. General requirements for bodies operating product certification system, included in the International Standard ISO/IEC 17065:2012;
    2. Supplementary requirements imposed in accordance with the Regulations Pertaining to Accreditation, that have been adopted by the Board.
  • Approved Specification Manual: Indication géographique protégée – Vin de glace du Québec
  • Control Body : Écocert Canada

Designation relating to a link with a terroir:
“Agneau de Charlevoix”

 

Recognized since March 21, 2009, pursuant to a legal notice published in the Gazette officielle du Québec, authorized by Quebec's Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Inspection and certification system:

  • Competent Authority: Conseil des appellations réservées et des termes valorisants (CARTV)
  • Accreditation Manual in force:
    1. General requirements for bodies operating product certification system, included in the International Standard ISO/IEC 17065:2012;
    2. Supplementary requirements imposed in accordance with the Regulations Pertaining to Accreditation, that have been adopted by the Board.
  • Approved Specification Manual: Indication géographique protégée – Agneau de Charlevoix
  • Control Body : Écocert Canada

Designation relating¸to a method of production:
“Organic” - "Biologique"

 

Recognized since February 1st, 2000, pursuant to a legal notice published on December 29th, 1999 in the Gazette officielle du Québec, Volume 131, No. 53, authorized by Quebec's Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Inspection and certification system:

 

What exactly is the purpose of the “Act Respecting Reserved Designations”?

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Designations are usually generic terms that can be used by anyone. For the region of origin, they could be blueberries from the Lac St-Jean region, or grain-fed chickens for their specific characteristics. Anyone may use these designations without having to provide proof of their claims. Moreover, no one may trademark a brand comprised of only generic terms and then appropriate it for their exclusive use.

Only a government may reserve such designations. The Québec government has given the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the power to recognize designations whose content it has defined in the Act Respecting Reserved Designations and Added Value Claims.

The value of certain designations is often recognized in attempted imitations. The Act Respecting Reserved Designations and Added Value Claims reserves the use of recognized designations exclusively for operators who have obtained certification for their products and to take legal action against anyone making fraudulent use of this designation.