About Geographical Indications

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What is a Geographical Indication?

A Geographical Indication (GI) is a sign used on goods that have a specific geographical origin and possess certain qualities or a reputation that are linked to that place of origin.

Most commonly, a GI consists of the name of the place of origin of the goods. Agricultural products typically have qualities that derive from their place of production and are influenced by specific local factors, such as climate and soil.

Some examples of GIs are ‘Roquefort Cheese’, made in the Roquefort region of France; ‘Tequila’, which can only be made in the region of Tequila, Mexico; and ‘Havana’ for cigars from the capital of Cuba.

What effect can a Geographical Indication have?

A Geographical Indication assures the consumer that; (i) the product bearing the geographical indication is an authentic product from the geographic location indicated, (ii) the product carries the unique characteristics and quality for which the product is known

How is a Geographical Indication protected?

The law protecting GIs mandate that only products or the raw materials originating from a particular area and/or meeting certain standards, are allowed to benefit from this special designation. If products from other geographical locations are allowed to falsely carry a GI designation, this would have the effect of misleading the public as to the true origin of the product.

Geographical Indications are protected in accordance with national laws and under a wide range of concepts, such as: a) laws against unfair competition, b) consumer protection laws, c) laws for the protection of certification marks, or d) special laws for the protection of geographical indications or appellations of origin through the establishment of Geographical Indications Registers which list the national producers/ products that are the only entities authorized to market their products with the geographical indication.

Unauthorized parties may not use Geographical Indications if such use is likely to mislead the public as to the true origin of the product. Applicable sanctions range from court injunctions preventing the unauthorized use to the payment of damages and fines or, in serious cases, imprisonment.

Why do Geographical Indications need protection?

Geographical Indications are understood by consumers to denote the origin and the quality of products. Many of them have acquired valuable reputations which, if not adequately protected, may be misrepresented by dishonest commercial operators. False use of geographical indications by unauthorized parties is detrimental to consumers and legitimate producers.

Consumers are deceived and led into believing they are buying a genuine product with specific qualities and characteristics, while they in fact get a worthless imitation. The legitimate producers suffer damage because valuable business is taken away from them and the established reputation for their products is damaged.

Acts and Agreements