Launch Of Open Access Book On Geographical Indications In Asia-Pacific 29/06/2017 by Elise De Geyter 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)A new book launched this week in Geneva offers a unique compilation of the challenges and promises of the protection of geographical indications (GIs) with a particular focus on countries in the Asia-Pacific region. We should “not romanticise GIs,” but we need to be “very pragmatic and practical” and “a bit more sceptical,” Irene Calboli, professor at the Management University of Singapore, said at the launch. Calboli presented on 27 June the launch of the book Geographical Indications at the Crossroads of Trade, Development, and Culture. Focus on Asia-Pacific at the World Trade Organization. The book, co-edited by Calboli and Wee Loong Ng-Loy, professor at the National University of Singapore, is available by open access, as a contribution to the global body of knowledge on the subject. Open Access Book According to Calboli, the book delivers an impartial view on GIs. Calboli calls herself “a supporter of GIs,” but said many contributors are more sceptical about GIs and contribute different views to the book. Christine Haight Farley (one of the authors of the book ) and Irene Calboli (co-editor) A mix of junior and senior scholars contributed to the 21 chapters of the book. The contributing scholars are from both developing and developed countries, Calboli said, adding that “developing countries need to have a voice.” Daniel Gervais, Susy Frankel, Christopher Heath, Christine Haight Farley and Steven Van Uytsel are some of the contributors. The first part of the book frames the debate. The first chapter, written by Calboli, focuses on the creation of a fair system of protection of GIs. GIs create a monopoly and a monopoly is a subsidy, Calboli said, adding that all intellectual property rights are a subsidy in some way. The second part focuses on GIs at the crossroads of international and national trade. The promise and problems of GIs for local and rural development are discussed in the third part of the book. The fourth part examines the shifting relationship between GIs, traditional knowledge and cultural heritage. The different chapters discuss the protection of GIs in different countries in the Asia-Pacific, including Australia, Vietnam, Indonesia, China, Taiwan, Malaysia and Japan. Two important chapters are missing in the book, according to Calboli. There are no chapters on the protection of GIs in Thailand and Cambodia, she said, adding that there were already “too many chapters” and that a study of GIs in both countries will be part of another project. Calboli said that the next volume will focus on GIs in Africa because there is “so much to say about it.” Geographical Indications Most GIs are really local and have the ability to bring people in a community together, said Calboli. GIs stimulate competition within the area of GIs but also with non-GI products, she added. Only a handful of GIs are really powerful, according to Calboli, who underlined that GIs are not only applicable to food, but also to handcrafts. GIs require a case-by-case study, Calboli said. The book contains case studies of GIs in different countries in the Asia-Pacific that demonstrate that some GIs work “really well,” whereas others work “really badly,” she said. Developing Countries Developing countries tend to develop raw materials rather than final products, according to Calboli. Raw materials often get lost in the supply chain without proper acknowledgment, she said, giving an example that consumers of Swiss or Belgian chocolate do not know where the cacao beans actually come from. Calboli told the audience that it is really important to give developing countries as much information as possible about GIs. The more developing countries know about GIs, the more they can push during negotiations with developed countries, Calboli said. GIs are “a useful tool for development,” she said. The protection of GIs in the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is driven by the developed world, according to Calboli. Developing countries that do not produce a lot of wines and spirits do not receive a lot of protection under TRIPS, Calboli said. Calboli told the conference that GIs are “not a magic bullet for profit.” Successful GIs need among others marketing and a good infrastructure, she added. GIs for wines and spirits have the possibility to double the price of products, whereas GIs for agriculture products and raw materials only increase the price a little, Calboli said. Future of GIs Calboli proposes the creation of a system of GIs in which disclosure is mandatory. TRIPS gives holders of GIs the right to stop the misleading use of GIs by others, Calboli said, adding that holders of GIs can also use GIs in a misleading manner. “We should read TRIPS in a way that we have a benefit-sharing system that makes more sense and lets everyone benefit,” Calboli said. Calboli said that she believes that the system of GIs needs to be stricter. Full transparency in GIs is needed, Calboli said. She underlined that she does “not want to protect multinationals.” She told the audience that one of the main takeaways of the book is that there needs to be attention for governance and public-private partnership in the area of GIs. Calboli predicted that there will be “some fireworks” during the next assemblies of the World Intellectual Property Organization in October about the attribution of the fees under the Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and their International Registration as amended in 1978. Elise De Geyter is an intern at Intellectual Property Watch and a candidate for the LLM Intellectual Property and Technology Law at the National University of Singapore (class 2017). 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