Key-Concepts of GIs

Geographical Indications 

Geographical Indications are distinctive signs that associate products of quality and reputation with their place or area of production and thereby help identify and distinguish such products on the market.

There are some well-known examples of geographical and traditional names, which are associated throughout the world with the products of a certain reputation and quality and high value commercial denominations. That is the case of Tequila licor (Mexico), Bordeaux wines (France), Manchego cheese (Spain), Habanos tobacco (Cuba), Antigua coffee (Guatemala), Long-Ging tea (China), Chuao cacao (Venezuela), Parma ham (Italy), Argan Oil (Morocco), Shea butter (Burkina Faso), Guinean pineapples, White Honey (Cameroon), Mananara Vanilla (Madagascar), but also Bukhara (carpets), Solingen Cutlery (Germany), Kilim carpets (Turkey), Thai silk, among others.
According to article 22.1 of TRIPS, GIs are “[…] indications which identify 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” [1]. The GI definition provided by the TRIPS is quite broad, allowing names identifying agricultural and foodstuff products, handicrafts as well as wines and spirits to qualify for protection. The fundamental condition is that the quality, the reputation or other characteristics of the product at issue are linked to its geographical origin, by virtue of climate, know-how or another kind of knowledge deeply rooted in that area. “Colombian coffee” for instance is a GI as the name of the country refers to the origin and quality of the product. The mountains where coffee trees grow, the selection of the coffee variety and the harvest and transformation process are the elements conferring the products its unique characteristics[2].

 

Appellations of origin 

"Appellation of origin" refers to a sign that indicates that a product originates in a specific region, but is limited to those cases where the characteristic qualities of the product are due to the geographical environment, including natural and human factors, of that region, for example, “Roquefort”, “Gorgonzola”, etc.

A definition of AO is contained in the Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and their International Registration, adopted in 1958 under the auspices of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). According to Article 2 of the Agreement, an AO is “[…] the geographical name of a country, region, or locality, which serves to designate a product originating therein, the quality and characteristics of which are due exclusively or essentially to the geographic environment, including natural and human factors”[3]. Article 2.2 defines the “country of origin” as “the country whose name, or the country in which is situated the region or locality whose name, constitutes the appellation of origin that has given the product its reputation”.

Three elements should be noted in these definitions: First, the requirement that the appellation of origin should be the geographical denomination of a country, region or locality means that the appellation is to consist of a denomination that identifies a geographical entity in the country of origin. Secondly, the requirement that the appellation of origin must serve to designate a product originating in the country, region or locality concerned means that, in addition to identifying a place, the geographical denomination in question must be known as the designation of a product originating in that place (in other words the reputation). The third requirement concerns the quality or characteristics of the product to which the appellation of origin relates, which must be due exclusively or essentially to the geographical environment of the place where the product originates. The reference to the geographical environment means that there is to be a qualitative connection between the product and the place in which the product originates. The geographical environment is determined on the one hand by a set of natural factors (such as soil and climate), and on the other hand by a set of human factors – for instance, the traditional knowledge or know how used in the place where the product originates [4] .

 

Indication of source 

"Indication of source" refers to a sign that simply indicates that a product originates in a specific geographical region, for example, labels saying “Made in Germany”, “Product of the USA” or “Swiss Made”.
The term “Indication of source” is used in Articles 1.2 and 10 of the 1883 Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property[5] and the 1891 Madrid Agreement for the Repression of False or Deceptive Indications of Source[6]. No specific definition is set out in either of these the two treaties. However, a clarification of the notion can be found in Article 1.1 of the Madrid Agreement:
“All goods bearing a false or deceptive indication by which one of the countries to which this Agreement applies, or a place situated therein, is directly or indirectly indicated as being the country or place of origin shall be seized on importation into any of the said countries.”

 

Quality, characteristics and reputation 

In defining the concepts of GI and AO, we encounter terms such as quality, characteristics and reputation. These concepts are defined in different ways according to countries’ history, culture and tradition. Nevertheless, in an attempt to highlight a few common elements to several traditions and cultures, the quality of a product can be defined in relation to its specificity from a nutritional, visual or symbolic point of view, or in relation to its mode of production. Likewise, those characteristics linked to the geographical origin of a product have to be typical, differentiating it from any other product. They can be physical, chemical, organoleptic, natural, resulting from the raw materials used to produce it, etc. The concept of reputation refers to a positive opinion on a certain product, developed among consumers over time, and which is linked to its geographical origin [7].

 

The geographical area 

In the process of setting-up a GI, an essential step is the delimitation of the geographical area. This has to be substantiated by relevant arguments, such as an existing link between the product and its geographical environment, or other economic, political or cultural considerations [8]. Those arguments have to explain the specificity and uniqueness of the product (climatic factors, physical or natural elements, and/or localised know-how). The identified characteristics have to be homogeneous within the area, in order to differentiate it from neighbouring zones and create a certain level of identity. The articulation among the areas of production, transformation and elaboration has to be established as well, in order to carve out a coherent geographic area.

The example of the GI "pruneau d'Agen" explains well the process of delimitation of a geographical area. The association of producers defined such an area based on adequate sunshine conditions and clay-calcareous soils favourable to the culture of the "Ente Prune" (variety used for the cultivation of "pruneau d'Agen")[9].

 

The concept of “terroir” 

The notion of “terroir” is rich of meanings and has been evolving over time. In addition, having been conceptualized in a well defined socio-cultural context, translating the French word “terroir” in other languages is not an easy task.

In an effort to establish a meaningful definition for several socio-cultural contexts, the concept of “terroir” is referred to as “a defined geographical area in which a human community builds, along its history, a collective production knowledge based on a system of interactions between a physical and biological environment and a set of human factors. In light of the socio-technical factors at stake, a good produced in this area benefits from an originality, a specificity and a reputation [10].
The definition proposed by the working group INRA/INAO [11] is also interesting: A Terroir is “a delimited geographical area defined from a human community which builds along its history a set of distinctive features, knowledge, and practices based on a system of interactions between the natural environment and human factors. Those interactions result in original and specific products and services that can be easily recognised. Those factors affect as well the people leaving in that area. The terroirs are living and evolving places that cannot be associated exclusively to elements related to tradition”[12] .

Interactions between the physical and biological environment and human factors produce over time, in certain geographical areas, a specific traditional knowledge, which can confer specificity and reputation to goods produced locally.

 

The code of conduct (or product specification) 

In some jurisdictions, creating a GI requires the elaboration of a code of conduct (or product specification), which contains key information concerning the product at issue. The European Union (EU) has developed an important experience in this field. According to "Regulation (EU) No 1151/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 November 2012 on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs on the protection of Geographical Indications and Designations of Origin for agricultural products and foodstuffs, replacing the Council Regulation (EC) No 510/2006", a product specification should be composed of at least the following elements[13] :

 

  • the name of the product
  • the description of the product
  • the definition of the geographical area
  • evidence that the product originates in the defined geographical area
  • a description of the method of obtaining the product
  • details bearing out the link between the quality or characteristics of the product and the geographical environment, the link between a specific quality, the reputation or other characteristic of the product and the geographical origin
  • the name and address of the authorities or bodies verifying compliance with the provisions of the specification and their specific tasks
  • any specific labelling rule for the product in question

Each country should determine the basic criteria to establish a code of conduct, according to its own idea of GIs and the needs of local producers. However, it is clear that those elements justifying the link between the quality, the characteristics or reputation of a product and the geographical environment are crucial to identify a GI. 

 

[1] The full text of the TRIPS is available at: http://www.wto.org/english/docs_e/legal_e/legal_e.htm

[2] Samper, L.F. (2007) “Café de Colombia: protecting and promoting a well-known origin”, National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, Beijing, Chine, Juin 2007. Silva, G. (2008) “Geographical Indications: The Case of Colombian Coffee”, CEO, National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, mai 2008

[3] The full text of the Lisbon Agreement is available at http://www.wipo.int/treaties/en/registration/lisbon/. The English text says “quality and characteristics” but there was a mistake in the translation from the French text of the Agreement, which is the authentic one. The French text says “qualité ou les caractères”. The mistake in the translation has been confirmed by the WIPO Secretariat.

[4] See WIPO Secretariat, “Possible Improvements of the Procedures under the Lisbon Agreement”, p. 13, March 2009.

[5] The Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property was agreed in 1883 and complemented by the Madrid Protocol of 1891. See on http://www.wipo.org, “Treaties”, “Intellectual Property Protection Treaties”, “Paris Convention”.

[6] The 1891 Madrid Agreement for the Repression of False or Deceptive Indications of Source on Goods. See on http://www.wipo.org, “Treaties”, “Intellectual Property Protection Treaties”, “Madrid Agreement”.


[7] Barjolle, D., Boisseaux, S., Dufour, M. (1998), « Le lien au terroir, bilan des travaux de recherche », Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Zurich, Institut d'économie rurale, Mai 1998, Suisse

[8] Ibidem

[9] See « Le fruit d'un terroir ».

[10] Vincent, E., Flutet, E., Nairaud, D. (2008) « aoc et aop : un système de reconnaissance des terroirs au service du développement durable », Géosciences, numéro 7/8, mars 2008, INAO

[11] Institut national de recherche agronomique (INRA)/ Institut national de l’origine et de la qualité (INAO)

[12] See http://terroirsetcultures.frmfrpaca-lr.eu/spip.php?article74

[13] See Regulation (EU) No 1151/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 November 2012 on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs on the protection of Geographical Indications and Designations of Origin for agricultural products and foodstuffs, replacing the Council Regulation (EC) No 510/2006 of 20 March 2006, Art. 4



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