EU Says GI Products Would Benefit Asian Poor In Renewing IP Assistance12/06/2009 by Sinfah Tunsarawuth for Intellectual Property Watch 4 CommentsShare 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 subscribing to our service helps support our goals of bringing more transparency to global IP and innovation policies. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You also have the opportunity to offer additional support to your subscription, or to donate.BANGKOK – The European Union told Asian countries Thursday that protecting geographical indications of their products would benefit their poor, rural people as the EU is offering to renew its intellectual property cooperation with regional countries with GI enforcement as a greater element.“GIs are not only worth protecting because of their connection to quality, tradition and reputation. They also make a very valuable contribution to sustainable rural development,” David Lipman, head of the European Union delegation to Thailand, told a regional conference [on 11 June] in Bangkok on geographical indications (GIs) – a category of intellectual property rights that is linked to product names associated with a particular locality or characteristics.Lipman said studies have shown that GIs help develop rural communities as the protection ensures that foodstuffs and agricultural products are produced in a way that conserves local biodiversity. He said GI products also can boost local tourism and help create more jobs.The EU has offered €5.1 million euros assistance to all 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in renewing its IP cooperation with the regional grouping. Stephane Passeri, technical coordinator of the EC delegation, told Intellectual Property Watch on the sidelines of the conference that the renewed assistance would emphasise GI protection as one of the key elements.Passeri said assistance would cover four years as soon as all ASEAN members ratify the cooperation agreement. Thailand, an ASEAN member, for example is required by the constitution to have the Parliament approve the cooperation agreement before the Thai government could sign it with the EU.The renewed EU-ASEAN Intellectual Property Rights Cooperation Programme would be the third phase of such cooperation and the GI enforcement would become a greater element in this new phase than in the previous ones.Puangrat Asavapisit, director general of Thailand’s Department of Intellectual Property, told the conference that the enforcement of GI protection in the country has helped raise the price of certain agricultural products by 20 to 30 percent.“GIs are the right of local communities that become their marketing tools and brands,” she said.Since the enforcement of the Act on Protection of Geographical Indications in Thailand in April 2004, the Thai government has offered such protection to 30 items, 25 of which are Thai products while the other five are foreign, Puangrat said. She added that another 30 items are awaiting authorities’ approval.Violation of the protection under the Act will subject the offender to a maximum fine of 200,000 Thai baht (about US$5,880). No offence under the law carries any imprisonment term.Apart from Thailand, the other ASEAN members that have enacted laws to enforce GI protection in their respective countries are Vietnam, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia.Puangrat said as an effort to promote Thai GI products in global market, Thailand applied to register one of its prominent strains of fragrant rice in the EU in 2008. She said she hoped the EU would approve the application within this year.Lipman told a press conference later that he would personally help speed up the registration in EU of the Tung Kula Rong-Hai Thai Hom Mali rice – named after a key rice-growing plain ‘Tung Kula Rong-Hai’ in the poor northeastern region of Thailand while ‘hom mali’ means fragrant like the smell of jasmine.Puangrat said by such registration in the EU, she believed that Thai rice would become more competitive in the world market.Lipman added that the EU has extended its GI protection to cover various categories of food and other products among EU members in addition to wines and spirits, and also to cover products from non-EU countries.“Let me assure you that the EU GIs system is not only restricted to the EU member states, but opened to non-EU countries on equal footing,” he said in his opening speech, adding that trend shows that more Asian countries are offering protection to GIs.Subohd Kumar, a GI expert from India, told the conference that his country has offered GI protection mainly to its textile products, and said in agreement with other speakers that local Indian people have benefited from such protection.In answering questions from participants, Pajchima Tanasanti, deputy director general of Thailand’s Department of Intellectual Property, said Thailand could consider offering GI protection to cover services in the future as the World Trade Organization Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) allows such service coverage.However, the current Thai law covers only products, she said. Other experts in the conference said currently no GI protection has extended to services in any country yet.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)RelatedSinfah Tunsarawuth may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."EU Says GI Products Would Benefit Asian Poor In Renewing IP Assistance" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.