WTO Geographical Indications Talks Tiptoe; Substantive Discussion Coming28/01/2011 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch 2 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 depends on subscriptions. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You may also offer additional support with your subscription, or donate.After more than a decade of stalled negotiations, World Trade Organization members have entered into a debate about creating a register for the international protection of wines and spirits with place names. Negotiators met yesterday to discuss the registration of products, and although there did not appear to be significant progress according to sources, there is a sense of momentum for the first time in years. The next meeting, in the week of 8 February, is expected to address the legal effects of the register, an issue where dissensions are most intense.Under the push of WTO members to conclude the Doha Round of trade liberalisation talks by the end of 2011, a work programme has been announced by WTO Director General Pascal Lamy, with topics to be addressed by negotiating groups. The multilateral system of notification and registration of geographical indications for wines and spirits is one of those topics and negotiations opened with a first meeting on 14 January (IPW, Burble, 11 January 2011).Darlington Mwape of Zambia, chair of the working group on the multilateral system, recently identified six focal points to be discussed in order to produce a first draft text by the end of March. Each element is to be discussed in sequence to draft a negotiating text for each.The six elements to be discussed are notification, registration, legal effects and consequences of registration, fees and costs, special treatment for developing countries, and participation. Mwape identified legal effects or consequences of registration, and participation as being the most difficult topics of the six, according to WTO.According to sources, negotiating texts on notification and registration include many brackets for further discussions despite being considered by parties as non-contentious issues.According to a European Union source, the scope of the register, the participation in the register and its legal effects are the main issues in the negotiations. So far, little progress is being made and the texts issued to date still show a number of brackets.The negotiations on a multilateral register for wines and spirits GIs are held in the framework of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Geographical indications are product names associated with a particular place and characteristic, and protected under TRIPS.Composite texts including all views are being provided by members and discussed by parties in the hopes of getting rid of as much bracketed text as possible. The composite texts are drawn from three earlier proposals submitted by parties.The first and softest proposal is the “joint proposal,” sponsored by 19 countries generally seen as not having a large number of GIs, including several developing countries like Argentina, as well as Japan and the United States.The joint proposal group advocates a register that would be strictly voluntary and propose the setting up of a database of geographical indications for wines and spirits, participating members would commit to ensure that “its procedures include the provision to consult the database when making decisions regarding registration and protection of trademarks and geographical indications for wines and spirits in accordance with its domestic law.” Other members would be encouraged but “not obliged” to consult the database.The second proposal, of which an amended version of a proposal submitted by the European Union is backed by 109 countries, with the EU and the African Group counted among them as groups. This proposal envisions a register “open to geographical indications for wines and spirits protected by any of the WTO members as per [TRIPS].” Every WTO member would have to take the register into consideration.The proposal also calls for an amendment to TRIPS to “include a mandatory requirement for the disclosure of the country providing/source of genetic resources and/or associated traditional knowledge for which a definition will be agreed, in patent applications.”The second proposal also asks for an extension of the higher level protection of Article 23 of TRIPS to geographical indications for all products, including the extension of the register, and includes a mention of “special measures in favour of developing countries and in particular least-developed countries.”Hong Kong also submitted a third proposal in which the system would be entirely voluntary and the scope of participation would be revisited after four years of operating the system.Producers Advocate International RegisterThe register is vital for producers, according to Massimo Vittori, secretary general of the Organization for an International Geographical Indications Network (OriGIn).“Without a multilateral register, GI producers are left to prove the existence of their GI in each case and in each and every international market where they face usurpations,” Vittori told Intellectual Property Watch. “This is time-consuming and expensive and altogether too uncertain an undertaking, especially for small producers’ groups in developing countries.“Only a register applicable to all countries – this is the very nature of any WTO multilateral agreement – and open to all products will represent a reliable source of information for trademark offices, institutions in charge of GIs, and national tribunals that have to apply TRIPS rules concerning GIs,” he said.The main consequence of an international register would be to significantly reduce legal costs for producers, in particular on registration and enforcement, according to Vittori.OriGIn, in collaboration with the International Organisation of la Francophonie, and the French delegation to the WTO, is organising a seminar on “Geographical indications as a tool of sustainable development in Africa: the cases of argan oil (Morocco) and coffee and cocoa (Cameroon)” on 2 February in Geneva [pdf]. [Update: This meeting has now been cancelled, according to OriGIn]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."WTO Geographical Indications Talks Tiptoe; Substantive Discussion Coming" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.