Panel Explores Use Of Geographical Indications For Development 21/12/2009 by Kaitlin Mara for Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (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)Intellectual property related to geographically-specific products can be harnessed for development purposes, argued panellists at a recent event in Geneva. But there are specific challenges related to using such tools in the developing world that must also be addressed. In Europe, explained Dwijen Rangnekar at the side-event to the World Trade Organization ministerial in December, “there’s a long history of producer groups trying to receive protection either through custom or law, and that leads to this situation now,” where many geographical indications, or products associated with a particular place and characteristics, have been granted protection by states. This state protection, however, came after a call for it by producer groups. In the global South, Rangnekar said, what often happens is that laws regarding geographical indications are being implemented via international agreements, such as the WTO Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement, and then afterward there is encouragement for people to claim their rights. “You have the loose concept,” he said, but “no consensus on what rights there are,” so there can be collective action problems. Jorge Larson Guerra, a biologist from the Comisión Nacional Para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad in Mexico, said that for developing countries “GI are an invaluable tool for sustainable rural development,” but that they must be implemented correctly. Studies show that in developed countries geographical indications tend to contribute to both local conservation and development. In developing countries, Guerra said, “there are more contradictions in this experience.” But, “the overall message is that they can be positive if there’s an enabling institutional environment.” This means that there are not high transaction costs for the GI’s creation, that encourages sustainability, and that – if a GI becomes successful – its success does not end up excluding poor farmers or consumers due to price increases. T.C. James, who is the director of the National Intellectual Property Organization in India, gave one success story in the form of Pochampally Ikat. Pochampally is a small town known for its Ikat weaving, producing hand-dyed fabrics unique traditional patterns. There was a big market demand for this fabric, James said, yet a government survey of the region revealed over half the population was living below the poverty line. What was happening was a misappropriation of the patterns and name by large-scale producers outside the area, he said, and the subsequent manufacture of the products in these large mills usurped livelihood from the handloom weavers, causing many to switch professions, said James. In 2004-2005, a weavers association was formed, and IP rights such as copyright, trademark, industrial design and geographical indications were obtained, he said. A study afterwards found a twenty percent increase in sales, and also found significant increases in those participating in weaving. A side benefit was that woman, who saw a lot of this income passing to them, saw their ability to assert themselves increase. Such proactive government action, said James, is often needed, because the people involved are often not rich or powerful. Non-governmental organisations, he added, can also contribute in the form of technical assistance programmes. But, he stressed, outside assistance must be careful to represent producers. Rangnekar’s university undertook the first substantive study of a geographical indication from the global South, a liquor from the Goa region of India called Feni. The survey involved interviewing some 600 people. What they found is that the definition of a GI, as a cultural construct, is “constantly fluid.” New materials, new techniques and new practices are part of the natural evolution of GI production, said Rangnekar, citing the example of scotch, which has been redefined several times over the last two centuries. Feni is no different. Its raw materials can be drawn either from the caju apple (the fruit of the cashew nut) or from coconut sap, and the process of gathering the raw materials, techniques of fermentation and distillation, grau (or, density measure) preferences can vary widely. A Feni Association formed in 2006, facilitated by the government, defined Feni as a “double-distilled alcoholic beverage made only from fermented juice of cashew apples, produced through the months of March to May in Goa,” adding further specifications that only fallen cashew apples are used, and on distillation tools and the acceptable grau. But this definition excludes those who make Feni from coconut, who use different distillation tools (though these tools are widely accepted among Feni drinkers). It also isn’t necessarily reflective of drinker’s preferences. For example, the preferred Grau in Warwick University’s survey was 21, but the Feni Association mandates that the Grau be 19 or 20. So, said Rangnekar, “to the extent that these rules are enforced you’ll get a club that is very exclusive, narrowly defined, not representative of the diversity Feni has.” There needs to be more engagement, James said, with distillers and drinkers to ensure that a GI is not meaningless within the community, and that in creating a GI registry there is involvement of local experts and patrons. However, “at some point you have to come up with a quality product, and excluding [some] producers may be necessary to do this,” said Massimo Vittori, the general secretary of OriGIn, a group which advocates for the increased protection of GIs, during a later question and answer session. Rangekar agreed, but said the state has an important role to play to ensure that negotiations to reach consensus are more inclusive than exclusive. Guerra had a similar point: “the rule-making process [for GIs] has to be technically sound and democratic,” he said. “If there’s poorly thought out industrialisation due to demand, then you contribute badly to landscape,” and to genetic resource protection. GIs at the International Level It is “very clear that GI is not a European issue any longer, if it ever was,” said Sergio Balibrea of the European Commission. “It is a globalised issue now,” he added, “but we still have a problem of perception” at the WTO, where a coalition to negotiate to expand protection of GIs is seen as a strategic alliance in which developing countries are participating to gain in other areas of interest to them, most notably in biodiversity protection. James agreed that GIs are not only a European issue, but said during his presentation that the vast majority of GIs registered so far from India are in handicrafts or other manufactured goods, and that there are very few in wines and spirits. And Kiyoshi Adachi of the UN Conference on Trade and Development asked about GI enforcement as the clubs that represent “traditional types of industries are certainly not as well endowed as multinationals that might seek to protect rights,” adding that cost-effective ways to secure GIs were needed. Rangnekar said that funds to protect a GI expand with a market: if a market is very small, then it is not that expensive to protect it, he said. “As you become global, your costs will change, but then so will your ability to recoup costs.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (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) Related Kaitlin Mara may be reached at email@example.com."Panel Explores Use Of Geographical Indications For Development" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.