(2002; 131 pages)
D. Geographical Indications
A geographical indication is a sign used on goods that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation due to that place of origin.127 Most commonly, a geographical indication consists of the name of the place of origin of the goods. Some products have qualities that derive from their place of production and are influenced by specific local factors, such as climate and soil. Such indications may provide a competitive advantage, both domestically and in foreign markets, when a TRM product is associated by the public with its geographical origin.
127 The TRIPS Agreement defines in Article 22.1 a geographical indication as an indication which identifies a good as originating in the territory of a Member, 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.
An essential condition for the recognition of a geographical indication is that specific characteristics of a product must be attributable to its geographical origin.
In accordance with GRULAC,
“Geographical indications, especially appellations of origin, may be used to enhance the commercial value of natural, traditional and craft products of all kinds in so far as their particular characteristics may be attributed to their geographical origin. A number of products that come from various regions are the result of traditional processes and knowledge implemented by one or more communities in a given region. The special characteristics of those products are appreciated by the public, and may be symbolized by the indication of source used to identify the products. Better exploitation and promotion of traditional geographical indications would make it possible to afford better protection to the economic interests of the communities and regions of origin of the products” (GRULAC, 2001, p. 3).
Like in the case of trademarks, geographical indications may be useful to enhance the commercial value of TRM, whenever the consumer can establish an association between the geographical origin and the characteristics or quality of certain products. While such indications can not be legally used in the country of registration by parties not belonging to the relevant region or locality, procedures for the international recognition of such indications are still under negotiation in the framework of WTO128. Several developing countries have strongly advocated the strengthening of protection of geographical indications for products other than wines and spirits, which already receive an enhanced protection under the TRIPS Agreement.129
128 See the WTO Doha Ministerial Declaration, para. 18 (WT/MIN(01)/DEC/1).
129 See, e.g. Rangnekar, 2002.
There are some examples of geographical indications linked to traditional knowledge used in the Andean Group countries, which illustrate the potential use of such indications to protect TRM.130
130 The “Chuao Cacao” (from the native cacao varieties found in the Chuao locality of the Venezuelan coastal region) is produced under particular climate conditions and using the traditional drying and fermentation procedures of the Afro-American communities living within this area. The Chuao Cacao is highly aromatic and has an excellent lasting favor. It is exported to the high quality chocolate producers of Switzerland, Belgium, France and the United Kingdom. “Cocuy Pecayero” is a spirited drink produced with green agaves from the State of Lara (Venezuela), similar to the Mexican tequila. The Cocuy, which is basically a product consumed domestically, is currently produced by the region’s local communities, based on traditional procedures inherited from the indigenous communities. See Vivas Eugui and Ruiz Müller, 2001, p. 14.
It should be noted that the commercial value of geographical indications depends on adequate management practices and quality controls and marketing capabilities. Thus, legitimate users of a geographical indication must establish the standards to be applied, and the monitoring mechanisms (e.g. inspection of production facilities, testing of samples) to ensure that the characteristics and quality of products conform to such standards. They must also enforce their rights domestically and internationally. All this may not be possible for TRM holders, in most cases, without significant State or other support.