GIs Can Help Development, But Key Ingredients Are Needed, FAO Says01/03/2010 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch Leave a CommentShare 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 now. You may also offer additional support with your subscription, or donate.Geographical indications (GIs) can be a tool for sustainable development in rural areas and are attracting a rising interest from developing country producers, but some ingredients must be taken into account, such as an effective legal framework and collective management of the GIs, according to a recently released guide produced by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). GIs are place names used to identify products with particular characteristics, originating from a particular location.The guide entitled, “Linking People, Places and Products,” was produced in collaboration with the Strengthening International Research on Geographical Indications (SINER-GI) project. SINER-GI is a European Commission funded project congregating European GI holders, academics, governments and researchers, which looks at the economic, legal, institutional and socio-cultural conditions that would legitimise GIs in the framework of ongoing World Trade Organization trade liberalisation negotiations, according to their website.The guide aims at providing developing country producers with a tool to develop quality products that will draw customers’ interest and in return “promote sustainable agriculture and rural development.” It was presented on 18 February during a meeting hosted by the Organization for an International Geographical Indications Network (OriGIn).Manzoor Ahmad, director of the FAO liaison office in Geneva (and former chair of the WTO Council on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights, TRIPS), chaired the presentation of the guide. He said GIs do not only add more value to a product but also ensure higher quality for the consumers. The issue of GIs is being debated in two ways in the WTO Doha Round negotiations. There is the mandate to establish an international register for wine and spirits, and although the register is not in question, the legal implications of such a register are in question.In addition, there is a proposal to provide the higher level of protection that wines and spirits enjoy to other products, but some countries have not agreed to enter serious negotiations on the substance, he said. One of the difficulties is that WTO members have different ways of protecting their GIs, he added. In the WTO talks, southern European countries like France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland have been the strongest proponents of stronger GI protection.Emilie Vandecandelaere, an FAO food quality expert from France, and co-author of the guide, said that GIs rely on a two-level approach. The first is a local and collective initiative, a private sector driven demand for GI protection. The second is a necessary legal and institutional framework, including assessment, registration, protection and supportive policies.According to her, there is a recent and rapid development of GIs around the world. One of the challenges at the institutional level is that GIs cut across several sectors, such as intellectual property rights, food, culture, research, and tourism, she said, and that asks a lot of capacity and resources from institutions. That “could be a bottleneck for developing countries,” she said.Another challenge is the effective protection of IP rights both at the national and international levels, she said.The guide gives concrete examples in case studies and a methodology, and aims at raising awareness and facilitating local implementation of GIs, Vandecandelaere said. It also gives means to develop a common approach between stakeholders in order to define common rules, said Filippo Arfini, professor at the University of Parma, in Italy and co-author of the guide. Collective rules should not be perceived as constraints by the community, he said.According to the guide, setting rules for a GI product involves key ingredients such as: defining a rule of practice and the specific quality of the product, establishing the geographic limits of the production area, and setting up the local guarantee system, which ensures conformity to the specifications established in the agreed-upon rules.For Arfini, the environment is a crucial determinant for GIs and should be protected. “We are talking about local producers, not big companies,” he said. Those local producers have been tuning their production according to the environment, he said.Sustainable development in rural areas relies on three pillars, he said: economic, environmental, and social. GIs products are linked to a specific environment and thus the environment has to be preserved. GIs can also provide job opportunities, he said.In all cases, it is important to build a reputation for GIs locally because an international reputation is based on the local one, said Vandecandelaere.GIs are not really an issue that has broken down along North-South lines, according to Kyochi Adachi, legal officer and chief of the intellectual property unit of the UN Conference on Trade and Development. And although there is a rising interest in developing countries, there is a lower use of GIs than in developed countries.One of the reasons for this lower usage could be lower awareness, he said. However, GIs are one tool out of many in terms of IP protection of products, which also can be protected through such means as trademarks or plant variety protection, he said.According to Adachi, enforcement is a difficult issue for developing countries, which can spare fewer resources than a multinational company, for example. At the international level, he asked, how does a small, local cooperative protect their GI?For Massimo Vittori, secretary general of oriGIn, the guide shows that GIs are not only a potential for developing countries but are already working and there is a growing interest in GIs from international donors, he said.A collective approach should include all actors, such as producers, local authorities, non-governmental organisations, he said.The guide also advises that an effective legal framework be established so that all relevant stakeholders are included in the management of the GI system, to avoid the exclusion of local, traditional producers, and that the system in place takes into account social and economic issues of the community.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)RelatedCatherine Saez may be reached at email@example.com."GIs Can Help Development, But Key Ingredients Are Needed, FAO Says" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.