Industry List Of Potential US GIs Released Ahead Of WIPO Meeting

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A producers’ group lobbying in favour of geographical indications has issued a preliminary list of candidate GIs in the United States. The list, released just prior to a World Intellectual Property Organization negotiation on a possible instrument on GIs, takes a particular look at American wines.

The preliminary list of qualifying product names is available here [pdf].

The Organization for an International Geographical Indications Network (oriGIn) has been working on a worldwide compilation of GIs protected in the world since September 2011, as discussions on GIs have been stalled at the World Trade Organization for a number of years.

Geographical indications refer to goods that have a specific geographical origin from which they derive specific qualities, reputation or characteristics. In the US, the protection of such goods is mostly achieved through certification marks, which are trademarks.

Among the examples of prospective GIs mentioned in the OriGIn document are: Michigan apples, Idaho potatoes, Louisiana shrimp, Wisconsin ginseng, and North American wild blueberries (specifically a type found in Maine), Wisconsin cheese, and Florida oranges.

The list was circulated ahead of the next meeting of the WIPO Working Group on the Development of the Lisbon System, from 29 April-3 May. The working group is reviewing the international system of the Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and their International Registration so that it might attract a wider membership, while preserving the principles and objectives of the Lisbon Agreement, according to WIPO. A new possible instrument is being discussed and made positive progress at the last meeting (IPW, WIPO, 7 December 2013).

OriGIn’s preliminary list was authored by Richard Mendelson, director of the Wine Law and Policy Program and senior research fellow at the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, and Zachary Wood, law student at the University of California Berkeley School of Law. OriGIn has been working in recent years on building awareness of the value of GIs around the world, including in countries like the United States that have traditionally been strong opponents of strengthening GIs in the multilateral context.

Mendelson said in an OriGIn press release [pdf] that constructing the list was a difficult exercise, as there is no formal list of GIs in the US. The authors reviewed the American Viticultural Areas for GI wines as well as registered geographically-based certification marks. He added that list was not exhaustive.

According to the preliminary list, three “currently recognised categories of origin products” were reviewed: wines labelled with American Viticultural Areas, and other goods labelled or advertised with certification trademarks. The list presently “excludes collective marks, trademarks that include a geographic name or otherwise refer to a geographic area, unregistered goods that have a nexus to a specific place and state and county appellations.” These other GIs candidates are expected to be reviewed at a later date.

“With all its limitations, we offer this list as a useful beginning to a conversation about U.S. GIs and a launching point for further research,” the authors said.

William New contributed to this report.

Catherine Saez may be reached at

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