What are Geographical Indications?
Geographical Indications (GIs) denote as identification of certain goods including names or signs which recognize the goods as originating from a particular region in that country. To obtain GIs, the goods must possess qualities, reputations, authenticity or other characteristics which fundamentally linked with the geographical origin.
Benefit of Geographical Indications Right
Registrations for GIs are not necessary, however the organizations or companies who register their geographical indications obtain numerous benefits of the registration including:
- Registered geographical indications have the exclusive right to exploit or use the GIs’ products in the course of trade.
- Registration offered better legal protection to GIs’ products.
- The authorized users are allowed to issue infringements
United States provides protection for GIs through the trademark system since geographical indications are visualized as the subset of trademarks. Trademarks and GIs have similar functions, for instance, they serve as source identifiers and possess costly business interest. In this system, GIs are protected as trademarks, certification or collective marks. The benefits offered by the trademark system are as listed below:
- Protecting GIs as aforesaid utilizes the accessible trademark regime, the regime which already recognizable to business.
- The system also accommodates geographical indication which not just names of the places but also signs for example words, designs, slogans and colors without difficulty.
- The system is self-policing; the mark owners have the ability to issue infringement in federal court.
- The system also meets the standard requirement of trademark obligation in TRIPS and also for national treatments. Hence United States registration serves as starting point to get hold of registration in foreign country.
European Union provides protection for GIs through a sui generis system which is different with trademark system. The benefits offered by legal registration under the Sui Generis System are:
- Obtaining legal acknowledgment through a solid legal framework. The reinforcement of technical support for developing countries included in this framework to allow them to get benefit from GIs’ registration.
- Registration of GIs can be handled freely without fee payment
- GIs’ protection can be used for limitless period of time, nonetheless, this is not systematic (for example Indian and Russian)
FAQs Geographical Indication
How can we differentiate between trademarks and geographical indications?
Trademarks are marks or signs which are used by companies to differentiate their products or services with those of other companies. Whereby, geographical indications (GIs) are signs which specify the origin of the products. The characteristics or qualities possess by GIs product are essentially attributable to their definite geographical origin.
What are the examples of geographical indications in Malaysia?
- Tenom Coffee
- Borneo Virgin Coconut Oil
- Sarawak Pepper
- Sabah Seaweed
- Bario Rice
Who are entitled to apply for the registration of geographical indications
Registrations of GIs are limited to a community or association or organization or authority established by or under the law working with the same goods. Individual ownership of geographical indications is not allowed.
What are the advantages of GIs’ legal protections?
GIs give the following benefits:
- Prevent unauthorized competitors from using or exploiting GIs’ goods.
- It enhances economical affluence of the producer of GIs’ goods in the definite territory.
- Legal protection will increase the export of GIs’ goods.
How long the protections of geographical indications are valid?
The protections of registered GIs are valid for the period of ten years from the filling date of registration. They can be renewed from time to time for further period of ten years as long as the GIs are still valid.
What are the exclusions of legal protection stated by Geographical Indications Act 2000?
Products which do not fulfill the definition of GIs stated in section 2 of the act, products contain scandalous which oppose morality or public order and products which have been discontinued to be protected or fallen into disuse in the definite territory are the products which shall not be protected as GIs by the law of Geographical Indications Act 2000.
The products which have geographical indications that possess valuable reputation with good assurance quality will be distributed around the world and will create a great demand in the market. Hence, without appropriate legal protection, the competitors might exploit the marks, signs or names illegally and this will taint the products’ reputations. This kind of violation will mislead potential customer and eventually will result in the loss of sales of geographical indications’ (GIs) products.
GIs are protected under wide range of concepts at the national and international level, for instance, laws to prevent unfair competition and laws to protect certification marks. At the international levels, GIs are protected by Article 22 to 24 of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) (1994), which is administered by the World Trade Organization (WTO). Other international multilateral treaties which protect GIs are Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (1883), Lisbon Agreement (1958), Madrid Agreement (1891) and Bilateral Treaties.
In Malaysia, GIs are protected by Geographical Indications Act 2000.