Geographical indications (GI)
Geographical indications (GI)
A geographical indication 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.
The basic concept underlying GIs is simple, and familiar to any shopper who chooses Roquefort over “blue” cheese or Darjeeling over “black” tea, “Tangail Sharee”, “Cognac”, “Scotch”, “Porto” and “Darjeeling” are some well-known examples of names associated throughout the world with products of a certain nature and quality, known for their geographical origin and for having characteristics linked to that origin. A geographical indication is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. Most commonly, a GI consists of the name of the place of origin of the good, such as “Jamaica Blue Mountain” or “Darjeeling”. But non-geographical names, such as “Vinho Verde”, “Cava” or “Argan Oil”, or symbols commonly associated with a place, can also constitute a GI. In essence, whether a sign functions as a GI is a matter of national law and consumer perception. Moreover, in order to work as a GI, a sign must identify a product as originating in a given place. In addition, the qualities 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 link between the product and its original place of production.
Article 22.1 of the TRIPS Agreement defines geographical indications as …indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a Member [of the World Trade Organization], or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographical origin.
The predominant idea behind providing protection to GIs is to allow the producers of the GI goods or products, which are located in that designated territory, to exclude others from using the same. Thus, considering the commercial potential, GIs require adequate legal protection. Otherwise the risk of misrepresentation or being falsely used by dishonest commercial entities will exist. Absence of appropriate legal protection encourages illegitimate competitors to have a free ride on the reputation of those goods or products. Such unethical and unfair business practices are detrimental for the legitimate producers’ interest, resulting in loss of revenue, deception of consumers, and damage to the established reputation of the goods or products associated with the GI. To this extent, the need for protection of GIs is very significant.
GI products are generally originated from agricultural, fisheries, handicrafts, etc., and are produced by the rural community; hence the economic advantage gained through commercializing the GI rights goes to the poor. GIs enumerate community engagement. The right of the GI goods or products is always granted to a group of producers. Exploiting GI requires quality control and marketing of the products, which help increase the flow of income, improve producers’ skill and enhance employment opportunities. GIs thus help to reduce poverty and stimulate regional economic growth.
GI legislation is not only about enhancing the socio-economic benefit of our rural community or about reducing poverty, it is also important for revitalising our centuries-old culture. It is better to be late than never.
(This article is a segment of author’s research on “INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAWS IN BANGLADESH: CURRENT STATUS WITH PROBLEMS AND FUTURE DEVELOPMENT” for the degree of MASTER OF PHILOSOPHY, Under International Culture University.This article is published for educational purpose only, plagiarism is strictly prohibited)