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Socio-Economic Aspects of Geographical Indications
Worldwide Symposium on Geographical Indications, Word Intellectual Property Organization (2015)
  • Irene Calboli
  • Daniel J Gervais, Vanderbilt University
Geographical indications and their close cousins, appellations of origin, have taken center-stage in international intellectual property, in particular since the conclusion of the Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement.

Let us begin by briefly defining these terms. Appellations of origin are denominations that designate a locality, which may be as small as a village or as big as a country, in order to distinguish products produced in that locality and produced either according to regulations or “local, constant and trusted usage”in such locality which results in certain quality or characteristics of the product and/or its fame. Typically, the special fame, quality or characteristic of the product will be due to a method of production combined with the extraction and use of local natural resources. The notion is not, however, confined to food products. Industrial products may also be protected by an appellation due to the availability of specialized skills, raw materials and/or know-how.Protection may also extend to a certain presentation of products for sale. The 1958 Actes note that an appellation of origin is usually linked to the special qualities of a product associated with a “terroir,” while indications of source can be used in association with any kind of product.In normative terms at least, this notion of terroir undergirds the Lisbon system.

By contrast, the TRIPS Agreement and the Geneva Act use the notion of “geographical indications(GI).” Like appellations of origin, the focus of GIs is on quality or characteristics of goods that derive from geographical origin. TRIPS added semiotic flexibility by encompassing any indication (name or otherwise) that would point to a particular geographic origin as long as a certain quality or characteristic (and/or reputation) is attributable to that origin. Indeed, the practice under the Lisbon Agreement has been to register denominations that may not be “names” stricto sensu. The 2015 Geneva Act of the Lisbon Agreement uses both notions (appellations of origins and GIs) and thus can be said to blend the 1958 and TRIPS notions.

In this short paper, we suggest first a theoretical framework to understand the sources of the socio-economic functions of the GIs. We then apply the framework and explore how GIs can be used to maintain and increase diversity in the marketplace. In the third and last part we consider the costs and benefits of protecting GIs.
Publication Date
October 21, 2015
Citation Information
Irene Calboli and Daniel J Gervais. "Socio-Economic Aspects of Geographical Indications" Worldwide Symposium on Geographical Indications, Word Intellectual Property Organization (2015)
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