The protection of geographical indications of origin (GIs) has historically been the subject of heated debate and controversy among members of the international community. Defenders of GIs – mostly, although not exclusively, European countries and other “old world” countries – have generally advocated that GIs should be protected because they identify products that embody unique qualities and characteristics, which are directly linked to the terroir – a deep traditional connection to the land – where the products are grown, processed, or manufactured. In contrast, the United States (US), Australia, and a number of other “new world” countries have rejected calls for a stronger protection for GIs. These countries have argued against the terroir argument by highlighting that most products can be replicated almost anywhere today thanks to modern agricultural and manufacturing techniques. In addition, these countries have underscored that several GIs are generic terms on their soil – Champagne, Chablis, and Feta are some contested examples – and that a shift toward preventing the public from using these terms would damage businesses, which could no longer describe products using those terms. In turn, this might create confusion amongst consumers who have come to identify those terms as generic product names in these countries. In some countries, names similar or identical to foreign GIs are also registered and used as trademarks by entities that have no relationship with the original GI-denominated locality.
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