The Role of Distinctive Signs in Sustainable Economic Development

Published: August 5, 2020

Ulrike Grübler

Dr. Ulrike Grübler Erlburg Rechtsanwaltsgesellschaft mbH Berlin, Germany INTA Bulletins—Europe Subcommittee

Distinctive signs hold enormous potential to promote inclusive and sustainable economic development, according to speakers at a recent INTA Policy Dialogue. Policymakers participating in the discussion gained insight into the role that trademarks, related intellectual property (IP) rights, and geographical indications (GIs) can play in sustainable economic and social development. Presentations looked at ecotourism in the Asia-Pacific region and coffee production in Zimbabwe.

INTA and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) jointly organized the July 3 virtual discussion as an objective outlined in a memorandum of understanding signed between the two organizations in 2019. Titled “The Potential of Distinctive Signs to Promote Inclusive and Sustainable Economic Development,” the pertinent and timely discussion merges one of the most interesting areas of trademark law with a critical sustainability issue.

The discussion included a comprehensive overview of existing legal frameworks and opportunities for developing countries and communities to advance and leverage their IP. It also highlighted “success stories” of existing certification marks and GIs, and case studies of specific countries and business areas, as well as the implications that the COVID-19 crisis may have for the current efforts of the local communities to register and protect their IP.

INTA’s Representative, Africa, Middle East, and Intergovernmental Organizations, Tat-Tienne Louembe, and Christoph Spennemann (UNCTAD, Switzerland) led the discussion. During this introduction, Mr. Spennemann stressed the importance of certification marks and GIs for developing countries in particular. In contrast to other areas of the world, the larger obstacles facing developing countries are issues involving the definition of standards and the harmonization of production processes.

Providing some academic insight on the subject, Natalia Dulkowska (University of Warsaw, Poland), a member of INTA’s Harmonization and Trademark and Practice Committee, emphasized that an efficient IP protection model undoubtedly ranks among the most important aspects of effective operation in the market and encourages creativity and innovation.

As an example, she noted that Europe has effectively used certification marks, GIs, and trademarks to advance economic development and growth, as well as drive innovation and enhance the quality of products.

Charlene Tsitsi Musiza, PhD candidate at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, shared a case study involving small-scale coffee growers in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. The farmers are currently facing practical challenges in adopting a branding strategy for coffee under the country’s existing trademark system. Further education about the advantages of protection mechanisms will serve well to advance IP in Zimbabwe and help local businesses to brand and promote their products and services.

As the final speaker, Sanaz Javadi, visiting scholar at UNIDROIT, in Rome, Italy, focused on the socio-economics of branding in enhancing ecotourism in the Asia-Pacific region. Highlighting Cambodia and South Korea as examples, she identified the development of high value-added export markets and the positioning of high-end products in niche markets as important factors for the economic growth of developing countries. Such GI-protected products also provide a major component of destination branding, which can lead to important spin-off effects in other product categories or business areas.

Follow the links to access the presentations:

Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of this article, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest.

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