Geographical Indications

Jane Lambert
27 May 2010

“Geographical indications” are place names or names associated with places that identify the origin, quality, reputation or other feature of a product. Examples include “Scotch” for whisky from Scotland, “Champagne” for sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France or “Parma” ham for dry-cured ham from the Parma region of Italy.

TRIPs

States that belong to the World Trade Organization are required by art 22 (2) of TRIPS (Annex 1c to the WTO Agreement) to “provide the legal means for interested parties to prevent:

(a) the use of any means in the designation or presentation of a good that indicates or suggests that the good in question originates in a geographical area other than the true place of origin in a manner which misleads the public as to the geographical origin of the good;

(b) any use which constitutes an act of unfair competition within the meaning of Article 10bis of the Paris Convention (1967).”

There is additional protection under art 23 of TRIPS for the geographical indications of wines and spirits.

Paris Convention

Art 10bis is mentioned in the introduction to passing off.    “Indications or allegations the use of which in the course of trade is liable to mislead the public as to the nature, the manufacturing process, the characteristics, the suitability for their purpose, or the quantity, of the goods” are prohibited in particular by art 10 bis (3) (iii).

Implementation of those Treaty Obligations

In the UK these obligations are implemented by:

  • collective and certification marks which are mentioned in the introduction to trade marks;
  • the extended action of passing off; and
  • special European Union legislation for agricultural farm products and foodstuffs and wines and spirits.

Continuing Negotiations

WTO members have agreed to enter into negotiations aimed at increasing the protection of individual geographical indications for wines and spirits.

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