A geographical indication (GI) is a name or sign used on products which corresponds to a specific geographical location or origin (e.g. a town, region, or country). The use of a geographical indication, as a type of indication of source, acts as a certification that the product possesses certain qualities, is made according to traditional methods, or enjoys a certain reputation, due to its geographical origin.
Appellation of origin is a subtype of geographical indication where quality, method and reputation of a product strictly originate from the delineated area defined under its intellectual property right registration.
What is a geographical indication?
A geographical indication (GI) is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin.
In order to function as a GI, a sign must identify a product as originating in a given place. In addition, the qualities, characteristics or reputation of the product should be essentially due to the place of origin.
Since the qualities depend on the geographical place of production, there is a clear link between the product and its original place of production.
What rights does a geographical indication provide?
A geographical indication right enables those who have the right to use the indication to prevent its use by a third party whose product does not conform to the applicable standards. For example, in the jurisdictions in which the Darjeeling geographical indication is protected, producers of Darjeeling tea can exclude use of the term “Darjeeling” for tea not grown in their tea gardens or not produced according to the standards set out in the code of practice for the geographical indication.
However, a protected geographical indication does not enable the holder to prevent someone from making a product using the same techniques as those set out in the standards for that indication. Protection for a geographical indication is usually obtained by acquiring a right over the sign that constitutes the indication.
For what type of products can geographical indications be used?
Geographical indications are typically used for agricultural products, foodstuffs, wine and spirit drinks, handicrafts, and industrial products.
How are geographical indications protected?
There are three main ways to protect a geographical indication:
- so-called sui generis systems (i.e. special regimes of protection);
- using collective or certification marks; and
- methods focusing on business practices, including administrative product approval schemes.
These approaches involve differences with respect to important questions, such as the conditions for protection or the scope of protection.
On the other hand, two of the modes of protection — namely sui generis systems and collective or certification mark systems — share some common features, such as the fact that they set up rights for collective use by those who comply with defined standards.
Broadly speaking geographical indications are protected in different countries and regional systems through a wide variety of approaches and often using a combination of two or more of the approaches outlined above.
These approaches have been developed in accordance with different legal traditions and within a framework of individual historical and economic conditions.
How long does geographical indication protection last?
In many sui generis legislations, registrations for geographical indications are not subject to a specific period of validity. This means that the protection for a registered geographical indication will remain valid unless the registration is cancelled.
Geographical indications registered as collective and certification marks are generally protected for renewable ten-year periods.
Who can use a protected geographical indication?
The right to use a protected geographical indication belongs to producers in the geographical area defined, who comply with the specific conditions of production for the product.
How are geographical indication rights enforced?
Like all intellectual property rights, the rights to geographical indications (GI) are enforced by the application of national legislation, typically in a court of law. The right to take action could rest with a competent authority, the public prosecutor, or to any interested party, whether a natural person or a legal entity, whether public or private. The sanctions provided for in national legislation could be civil (injunctions restraining or prohibiting unlawful acts, actions for damages, etc.), criminal, or administrative.
What is the difference between a geographical indication and a trademark?
Geographical indications (GIs) identify a good as originating from a particular place. By contrast, a trademark identifies a good or service as originating from a particular company.
A trademark often consists of a fanciful or arbitrary sign. In contrast, the name used as a geographical indication is usually predetermined by the name of a geographical area.
Finally, a trademark can be assigned or licensed to anyone, anywhere in the world, because it is linked to a specific company and not to a particular place. In contrast, a GI may be used by any persons in the area of origin, who produces the good according to specified standards, but because of its link with the place of origin, a GI cannot be assigned or licensed to someone outside that place or not belonging to the group of authorized producers.
What is the difference between a geographical indication and an indication of source?
An indication of source can be defined as an indication referring to a country (or to a place in that country) as being the country or place of origin of a product. In contrast to a geographical indication, an indication of source does not imply the presence of any special quality, reputation, or characteristic of the product essentially attributable to its place of origin. Indications of source only require that the product on which the indication of source is used originate in a certain geographical area. Examples of indications of source are the mention, on a product, of the name of a country, or indications such as “made in ….”, “product of ….”, etc..
What is the difference between a geographical indication and an appellation of origin?
Appellations of origin are a special kind of geographical indication (GI). GIs and appellations of origin require a qualitative link between the product to which they refer and its place of origin. Both inform consumers about a product’s geographical origin and a quality or characteristic of the product linked to its place of origin.
The basic difference between the two concepts is that the link with the place of origin must be stronger in the case of an appellation of origin. The quality or characteristics of a product protected as an appellation of origin must result exclusively or essentially from its geographical origin.
This generally means that the raw materials should be sourced in the place of origin and that the processing of the product should also take place there. In the case of GIs, a single criterion attributable to geographical origin is sufficient – be it a quality or other characteristic of the product – or even just its reputation.
What is the relationship between traditional knowledge (TK) and geographical indications?
Products identified by a geographical indication are often the result of traditional processes and knowledge carried forward by a community in a particular region from generation to generation. Similarly, some products identified by a geographical indication (GI) may embody characteristic elements of the traditional artistic heritage developed in a given region, known as “traditional cultural expressions” (TCEs). This is particularly true for tangible products such as handicrafts, made using natural resources and having qualities derived from their geographical origin.
GIs do not directly protect the subject matter generally associated with TK or TCEs, which remains in the public domain under conventional IP systems. However, GIs may be used to indirectly contribute to their protection, for instance, by preserving them for future generations. This can be done, for example, through the description of the production standards for a GI product, which may include a description of a traditional process or traditional knowledge.
What is a “generic” geographical indication?
In the context of geographical indications, generic terms are names which, although they denote the place from where a product originates, have become the term customary for such a product. An example of a GI that has become a generic term is Camembert for cheese. This name can now be used to designate any camembert-type cheese.
The transformation of a geographical indication into a generic term may occur in different countries and at different times. This may lead to situations where a specific indication is considered to constitute a geographical indication in some countries, whereas the same indication may be regarded as a generic term in other countries.
What are “homonymous” geographical indications?
Homonymous geographical indications (GI) are those that are spelled or pronounced alike, but which identify products originating in different places, usually in different countries. In principle, these indications should coexist, but such coexistence may be subject to certain conditions. For example, it may be required that they be used only together with additional information as to the origin of the product in order to prevent consumers from being misled. A GI may be refused protection if, due to the existence of another homonymous indication, its use would be considered potentially misleading to consumers with regard to the product’s true origin.