New Arab Group Aims At Protecting Local Products With Geographical Origins 27/10/2008 by Wagdy Sawahel for Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) IP-Watch is a non-profit independent news service and depends on subscriptions. To access all of our content, please subscribe here. You may also offer additional support with your subscription, or donate. By Wagdy Sawahel for Intellectual Property Watch In a bid to harness the significant value of geographical indications to the economies of the 22 member states of the Arab League, an Arab Society for Geographical Indications (ASGI) has been proposed. This was announced by Talal Abu-Ghazaleh, president of the private-sector Arab Society for Intellectual Property (ASIP) and chairman of the Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Organisation (TAG-Org), at the three-day First Arab Consumer and Brand Protection (ACBP) Forum held under the umbrella of the Arab League in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the period from 19-21 October. Geographical indications (GIs) are defined in the World Trade Organization Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement Article 22 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.” Arab countries have many cases related to geographical indications; some of the best examples are Doan honey from Yemen (Doan is a famous valley in the Hadramout area), Mocha coffee from Yemen, Oman’s Halva, Masafi from the United Arab Emirates, olive oil soap from Nablus in Palestine, water from al Feejah spring in Syria, Lebanese tabbouleh and argan oil from morocco. However, geographical indications are not fully protected there. Some Arab countries, like Jordan and Egypt, have laws for protecting geographical indications issued in 2000 and 2002 respectively. Algeria joined the Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin which is a special kind of GI: the geographical name of a country, region or locality which serves to designate a product originating therein, the quality and characteristics of which are due exclusively or essentially to the geographical environment, including human factors such as know-how and environmental factors such as climate or soil. Algeria joined the Lisbon system in 1972, followed by Tunisia in 1973. Arab Society for Geographical Indications (ASGI) Launched at consumer forum held in Saudi Arabia last week, the ASGI will be under the umbrella of the Arab League. In cooperation with ASIP, ASGI aims at promoting geographical indications as a tool for increasing local investment and protecting local products from false use by unauthorised parties. To do that, ASGI will establish a comprehensive database that includes all geographical indications in each country in the Arab world in order to protect and promote Arab heritage and local products as well as encouraging Arab countries to develop GI laws and regulations, and joining international treaties related to geographical indications and updating and modernising the existing geographical indications laws in the Arab countries to be in harmony with the international standards. Abu-Ghazaleh indicated that the Arab businesses do not fully recognise the significant value of geographical indications to the national economy. Thus, besides offering the technical assistance needed to the countries interested in establishing their own geographical indications database, ASGI will help in preparing a strategy concerning geographical indications in the Arab countries as well as organising awareness campaign for promoting the role of geographical indications for Arab public and business communities and decision-makers. GIs as an Instrument for Innovation-based Investment Speaking to Intellectual Property Watch, Magdi Tawfik Abdelhamid, at Cairo’s National Research Centre, called the ASGI “a good step towards establishing innovation-based investment through protecting as well as promoting local products with Arab origin.” Abdelhamid added that “because usually the traditional producers of GI products use cheap materials assembled poorly, ASGI must develop proper documentation and research to enhance quality and productivity of GI products with the aim to make them world market products as well as providing technical support to the entrepreneurs of Arab local industries in the field of goods, services or geographically indicated ones.” Abdelhamid indicated “as the GI is a relatively new topic in the Arab world, ASGI must promote knowledge dissemination through the organisation of conferences, workshops and seminars to promote awareness among all institutions interested in GI.” In a bid to help Arab business to gain greater access to niche markets through legal protection of products with Arab origin, Abdelhamid pointed out that ASGI should help in establishing bilateral and collective conventions between Arab states and other states of the world on the protection and exchange of databases of GI for a secured mutual protection between these states. These bilateral agreements or the common markets with other countries on various products and services are playing a major role, Abdelhamid added. Eltayeb Mohamed Abdelgadir, researcher at Sudan-based Agricultural Research Corporation, told Intellectual Property Watch, “Although GIs can be useful in boosting the economies of developing countries especially for small and medium-sized enterprises by allowing them to monopolise on a certain product and eliminate competition from other producers as well as the development of indigenous and local communities and small farmers, GIs must be managed using a balanced approach between protection and promotion attributed to a particular GI.” Abdelgadir called upon the WTO to develop more effective and fair international rules for protecting GIs “making no difference between Swiss chocolate and Doan honey from Yemen”. Abdelgadir also called for preparing clear and applicable legal implications of submitting a GI to the register and extending the GI international register that is currently only aimed at wines and spirits (alcohol) to other products. “This limitation is not in the interest of Arab countries as well as all 57 Islamic states as they are not home for this industry and are rich in other products,” Abdelgadir pointed out. This is currently under debate at the WTO. Wagdy Sawahel may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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