ITC’s Guide to Geographical Indications: Linking Products and
their Origins (2009, 225 pages) provides
hands-on advice to developing country agri-business producer groups, who are
considering the registration of Geographical Indications (GIs) for their unique
products. The Guide is based on the findings and recommendations of almost 200 surveys and reports, and includes eight detailed case studies on products
from developing countries.
A GI signals a link not only between a product
and its specific place of origin, but also with its unique production methods
and distinguishing qualities. A GI is thus a differentiator, often a key to
higher and more stable export earnings. Yet, until now, very little
consolidated information was available about these unique forms of intellectual
and cultural property and their potential to provide a sustainable means of
competitiveness even for remote regions of developing countries. ITC’s Guide now
fills that gap.
The Guide explores the
development potential for countries wishing to use GIs, outlines the elements
of a successful GI strategy, and examines the different mechanisms available
for protecting and fostering new GI products and services. As such it will
primarily appeal to audiences of policymakers, producer groups, and development
agencies. It will also interest researchers and academics in the international
development, legal, and trade fields, as well as non-governmental organizations
The Guide to Geographical
Indications is available free of charge
in pdf form in English, French and Spanish. Print copies
can be ordered via ITC’s e-Shop.
Many GIs, such as Bordeaux wine or Parmigiano
cheese, are well-known – but 90% of the 10,000 such indications registered are
from OECD countries. Their annual trade value is estimated at USD 50 million.
GIs are now increasingly perceived as an opportunity in many other countries
that have unique physical and cultural attributes that can be translated into
product differentiation. These physical and cultural assets form the basic
value-giving characteristics upon which GIs are built. GIs are the embodiment
of ‘glocalization’ i.e. products and services participating in global markets
and at the same time supportive of local cultures and economies.
Geographical Indications are an integral form of
rural development that can powerfully advance commercial and economic interests
while fostering local values such as environmental stewardship, culture and
tradition. They often align with emerging trade demands since they tend to have
standards for quality, traceability and food safety. GIs possess many of the
characteristics of an upmarket brand. They can have an impact on entire supply
chains and even other products and services in a region and thereby foster
business clustering and rural integration. Their differentiation from
commodities can offer a valuable competitive advantage that is difficult to
It is not, however, all a rosy picture. GIs are
not easy to establish. Success on a large scale is often measured in decades
and requires patient application and sustained commitment. They can have
considerable costs, not just for organizational and institutional structures
but also for ongoing operational costs such as marketing and legal enforcement.
In some cases, without proper planning and management, developing countries
could squander limited resources investing to establish poorly chosen GIs.
ITC’s aim with the guide is to offer assistance in
deciding whether a GI is worth considering and, if the answer is yes, help
producers and their organizations with the steps involved.
Lessons from the case studies and the literature
review suggest that, for a GI to be successful, four components are essential:
As it becomes more popular, a GI takes on value
just like any familiar brand. For producers, a GI helps to confer uniqueness or
differentiation, and can be used to grant a measure of protection to what has
essentially evolved to represent a brand name for their product. Besides the
value of legal protection, GI status can ostensibly reduce the information
problems faced by consumers when product characteristics are not readily evident.
While imitation may be flattering to some, for
many GIs such fraud is costly in terms of their reputation and their income.
Since there are often attempts to “free-ride” on their reputations by using the
same or similar names, GIs require adequate means of protection. Yet, the
implications, or the pros and cons, of different protection approaches are
often unclear. Therefore, the requirements, effectiveness and costs must be
properly assessed before determining the most appropriate course of protective
Wines and spirits, the most common GIs, are
reasonably well protected by special provisions in national systems and
international accords. However, for food and other agricultural products, legal
protection is less certain and less well understood. Sorting out the main
protection options is a key objective of this publication; it purposely focuses
on the less well-protected agri-food sectors rather than explicitly covering
wines and spirits, though many of the lessons learned are similar.
Fragmented, overlapping and nebulous systems of
protection, combined with the lack of a single or common coherent international
approach, or even a registry, make it difficult to secure protection in
overseas markets. Of the 167 countries
that protect GIs as a form of intellectual property, 111 (including the EU
27) have specific or sui generis systems of GI laws in place. There are 56
countries using a trademark system, rather than or in addition to specific GI
protection laws. These countries utilize certification marks, collective marks
or trademarks to protect GIs.
systems vary from country to country, some of the choices available for GI
protection can potentially put a public asset into the exclusive control of
just a few private hands. Both of the largest markets for GI products, the EU
and the United States, appreciate the validity and purpose of GIs. Yet
protection systems have evolved quite differently in these regions, a process
reflected in their differing approaches to protection. Publicly oriented or sui
generis systems of GI protection can be bureaucratic but tend to conceive of
GIs as a public good and thus cover many of the costs associated with securing
and enforcing their protection. Privately oriented systems, such as those that
rely primarily on trademark law for GI protection, can be more accessible and
responsive but the responsibility and costs, especially for detection and
enforcement, are borne by the GI itself.
The protection of GIs requires more than the legal
protection of geographic names. For many, there is an interdependent
association between the product, its place of origin and its quality. To be
effective in the long term, evidence of this must be preserved throughout the
supply chain. The issue of GIs must therefore be addressed holistically as
complete systems operating together with the business, policy and regulatory
regimes that support them.
Much of the effort behind the development of a GI
is in the civil or private sector. Organization, structure, and the management
of certification controls and marketing can be largely a private undertaking.
The role of government is essentially to provide the legal framework to prevent
fraud and deception so that the market for a GI can operate for the benefit of
both consumers and the participants in the region of origin. In some cases,
more active government participation may be necessary and warranted if there is
a ‘public good’ rationale.
That justifiable rationale for government
intervention may exist when a region is unable to develop or protect its unique
assets as a public benefit.
To better understand the complex permutations of
GIs and to test the hypothesis that GIs typically provide a broad array of
benefits, the authors researched and reviewed most of the serious research on
the topic – about 200 works. Most of the existing publications have focused on
European countries and so a series of eight Case Studies in developing
countries were also commissioned especially for this work. They feature GIs at
different stages of development in various countries ranging from Guatemalan to
Mongolia, from coffee and to wool and alcoholic drinks.
The main objective is to answer whether or how GIs
can indeed be a value proposition for the agri-food sectors in developing
countries, and if so, what is necessary in order to have GIs provide the most
broad-based and equitable developmental impact. The purpose of the publication
is to document lessons learned and good practices. It explores, step by step,
the issues to consider when developing or improving GIs and answers many of the
most common questions that arise on the topic. The reader is also offered a
number of observations and practical insights into the dominant GI systems that
Geographical Indications (GIs) – definitions and overview Valuing GIs: their pros and cons Global overview of legal protection systems for GIsGI protection – different policies and approaches around the world Practical aspects – applying for GI protection Deciding to undertake a GI – key points to consider Frequently asked questions Conclusions
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