Calboli on Geographic Indications of Origin and TRIPs

By Eric Goldman

My colleague Irene Calboli has posted “Expanding the Protection of Geographical Indications of Origin under TRIPS: Old Debate or New Opportunity?” to SSRN. This article does a good job recapping the different policy perspectives about GIs. The abstract:

“Geographical indications of origin (GIs), their definition, and rationale for protection have historically been the subjects of heated debates in the international community. Fierce defenders of GIs protection, European countries have traditionally advocated that GIs should not be used by unrelated parties because GIs identify the unique qualities, characteristics, and reputation of the products to which they are affixed. To this claim, the United States and other “new world” countries have generally responded by pointing out that many GIs are generic terms on their soil, and, thus, consumers could not be confused as to the origin of the products identified by these terms. The adoption of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects on Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) in 1994 marked an important victory for the European approach by establishing general minimum standards for GI protection for all of its signatories. Distinguishing it from any previous international agreement, TRIPS required all signatories to establish minimal protections for GIs through their national laws and to provide extra protection for GIs that identify wines and spirits. Member countries also had to agree to TRIPS’ “build-in agenda” to take part in future negotiations that would expand this enhanced protection. This essay analyzes the issue of GI protection pre- and post-TRIPs and considers whether extension of the protection set forth by TRIPs is desirable for the international community. The recent developments on the debate on GI are explored, particularly for wine and spirits, with an eye to whether the advantages of extending the current protection could outweigh the disadvantages of such an extension. Finding that enhanced GI protection in all areas could be more beneficial than detrimental for economic and agricultural development in most TRIPs countries, this essay suggests that there should be a “reasonable” expansion of the current GI protection among member countries of TRIPs.”

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