Italian Sounding

Denominazione di origine controllata

Italian Sounding is a marketing phenomenon consisting of words and images, color combinations (the Italian tricolor) and geographical references for brands that are evocative of Italy to promote and market products – especially but not exclusively agri-food – that are not actually Made in Italy.

The phenomenon is described by the Office of the Ministry of Economic Development (MISE) called ‘Directorate General for the Protection of Industrial Property – Italian Patent and Trademark Office’ (DGTPI-UIBM).

The term ‘Italian Sounding’ began gaining media coverage during the final stages of Expo 2015 (hosted by Milan, Italy, and having theme ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’). As part of a debate held in the ‘Cibus è Italia’ pavilion on the problem of counterfeiting and Italian Sounding, the Government of Italy was asked to set up a ‘permanent observatory on Italian Sounding.’

Counterfeit products violate registered trademarks or other distinctive signs protected by law such as the designations of origin (DOC, PDO, DOCG, PGI, TSG, IGT), therefore the counterfeiting is legally punishable. However, Italian Sounding cannot be classified as illegal from a strictly legal standpoint, but they still represent ‘a huge damage to the Italian economy and to the potential resources of Made in Italy.’ Two out of three Italian agri-food products sold worldwide are actually fakes that have nothing to do with Italian cuisine. The Italian Sounding phenomenon is estimated to generate €55 billion worldwide annually.

The origins of the Italian Sounding phenomenon are largely linked to the large migratory flows of Italians who, between the end of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th, went abroad in search of a better life. Those Italians, mostly directed to North and South America, as well as to European countries such as France, Germany and Switzerland, brought with them traditions and recipes that have changed over time, from generation to generation, also due to a process of adaptation to the destination country.

Due to globalization, the appreciation for the culture and food and wine of Italy has spread, even within places not directly affected by these large migratory flows. This diffusion has generated a demand that is often not adequately informed in terms of the actual typicality and quality of original Italian products, or such products can hardly be reached. This offers the opportunity for companies to place products on the market with names, graphics or other elements that somehow refer to Italy, even if they are not Made in Italy.

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