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Traditional Foods, Territorial Boundaries and the TRIPS Agreement: The Case of the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie



British pie aficionados associate the town of Melton Mowbray with the production of pork pies of exceptional quality. The “Melton Mowbray” name became a Geographical Indication (GI) in 2009. However, the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association (MMPPA), formed to obtain GI status, was founded as long ago as 1998. This paper uses the Melton Mowbray case to explore the GI model that operates in the European Union (EU). Articles 22, 23 and 24 of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement are actualised through the national legislation of each World Trade Organization (WTO) member. This occurred in the EU at the time of the Melton Mowbray example via Regulation 2081/92. The paper draws upon material gleaned from interviews with the Melton Mowbray producers and Chairman of the MMPPA which are supplemented by transcripts of the legal conflict which pitted the MMPPA against a powerful rival manufacturer. The MMPPA argued that its adversary was too distant from Melton Mowbray and that it applied inauthentic methods of production. The out-of-place producer, in response, claimed that the “Melton Mowbray” name was generic and hence ineligible for GI protection. This detailed study of one of Britain's most iconic regional foods investigates the conceptual and legal infrastructure that is common to all GIs. It provides an in-depth analysis of the constructions of place, boundaries and tradition that are deployed to generate GIs and legitimise the system. Moreover, this work demonstrates that the intricacies and nuances of the GI model can result in differing interpretations of these notions and thus lead to legal challenges from aggrieved producers.