Geographical Indications

What Is A Geographical Indication?

Geographical indications (GIs) are protected under the TRIPS Agreement as an intellectual property right (IPR) and are under the jurisdiction of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Among the commonly cited definitions, Article 22.1 of TRIPS defines geographical indications as “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.”

Appellations of origin are protected under the Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin through registration under the jurisdiction of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Also a commonly cited definition, the Lisbon Agreement defines appellation of origin as “the geographical denomination of a country, region, or locality, which serves to designate a product originating therein, the quality or characteristics of which are due exclusively or essentially to the geographical environment, including natural and human factors” (Article 2(1)). Furthermore, “the country of origin is the country whose name, or the country in which is situated the region or locality whose name, constitutes the appellation of origin which has given the product its reputation” (Article 2(2)).

GIs generally protect agricultural products, foodstuffs, wines and spirits, handicrafts, and industrial products. A GI is not a trademark with geographical significance, such as NORTH POLE for bananas or HYDE PARK for men’s suits, nor is it a generic term such as Swiss cheese.

Our Position

We recognize that trademarks and GIs are separate IPRs, and we support the protection of GIs under national laws and international treaties and agreements, in line with Article 1(1) of the TRIPS Agreement. We support the protection of GIs as we do trademarks, designs, and other related IPRs.

We firmly advocate the position that the protection of GIs must not prejudice other existing IP rights such as trademarks, including collective marks, certification marks, and trademarks with geographical significance.

Both GIs and trademarks will continue to exist globally, and conflicts between these rights―including collective and certification marks―must be resolved pursuant to the principle of “first in time, first in right,” based on the well-established principles of territoriality, exclusivity, priority, and good faith. The priority principle means that a validly registered earlier trademark should prevail against a later GI, and vice versa.

We also advocate that:

  • systems for regulating the protection of GIs should have effective and transparent mechanisms in application, amendment, and opposition and cancellation proceedings;
  • trademark owners and other relevant parties, such as governmental bodies, trade associations, or individual traders with legitimate interests in the use of a GI and/or prior rights, should have standing to oppose or to seek amendment or cancellation of GIs; and
  • the use of geographical terms that have become generic should not be hampered by GI protection.

If you want to learn more about Geographical Indications, contact Member Operations.