WIPO Symposium on Geographical Indications

Next week I’ll be at the World Intel­lec­tu­al Prop­er­ty Orga­ni­za­tion (WIPO) “Symposium(link to the Sym­po­sium website)”:http://www.wipo.int/meetings/2003/geo-ind/en/ in San Fran­cis­co to present a “paper(link to a PDF file 160kb)”:http://www.petergallagher.com.au/assets/public/PaperGallagherSFO.pdf on Geo­graph­i­cal Indi­ca­tions in Glob­al Dairy Trade.

The WTO nego­ti­a­tions include a debate on imple­ment­ing a reg­is­ter of region-linked brands (called ‘geo­graph­i­cal indications&#8217)such as ‘Scotch’ or ‘Parme­san’. These GIs are used most­ly by the Euro­peans to pro­tect the brand-asset val­ue (e.g. rep­u­ta­tion) of estab­lished region­al food, wine and spir­its pro­duc­tion. They were giv­en spe­cial sta­tus in the WTO agree­ment on intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty (TRIPS) agreed in 1994. There is rea­son to believe that Europe wants to use the reg­is­ter, to be set up by the WTO, as a back-door means of enforc­ing pro­tec­tion of its GI brands around the world. The USA, Aus­tralia, Argenti­na, New Zealand and oth­er coun­tries are opposed to giv­ing any legal effect to the reg­is­ter. Brand-names such as trade­marks and GIs have to be reg­is­tered in every nation­al juris­dic­tion because every coun­try has dif­fer­ent require­ments for reg­is­tra­tion based on e.g. exist­ing local use of the brand or dif­fer­ent com­pe­ti­tion rules about the monop­oly rights that a brand cre­ates. These coun­tries say the reg­is­ter should be a vol­un­tary, infor­ma­tion data­base on GI reg­is­tra­tion. In fact, Euro­pean ambi­tions go much fur­ther than the reg­is­ter. The EU would like every coun­try to give GI brand-own­ers absolute rights to the region­al name that they register—whether or not there is any con­sumer ben­e­fit in the absolute right. This would mean that there’d be no pos­si­blil­i­ty of describ­ing a cheese as an ‘Aus­tralian parme­san-style cheese’ even if the con­sumer under­stood per­fect­ly that this meant the cheese was not made on the banks of the riv­er Po in north­ern Italy. The Euro­pean Agri­cul­ture Com­mis­sion­er, Franz Fis­chler, also recent­ly “linked(link to text of Fis­chler speech)”:http://www.europa.eu.int/rapid/start/cgi/guesten.ksh?p_action.gettxt=gt&doc=SPEECH/03/238|0|RAPID&lg=EN&display= pro­tec­tion of GIs to pro­tec­tion of process and pro­duc­tion meth­ods (PPMs). By doing so he has asso­ci­at­ed the con­tro­ver­sy on GIs with anoth­er wide-rang­ing debate on the use of trade bar­ri­ers to dis­crim­i­nate among imports based on their means of pro­duc­tion. The WTO has always pro­hib­it­ed such dis­crim­i­na­tion with very good rea­son; such dis­crim­i­na­tion under­mines the eco­nom­ic basis for trade in the exploita­tion of com­par­a­tive advan­tage. GIs have enor­mous poten­tial to lim­it com­pe­ti­tion in glob­al food markets—particularly if the reg­is­ter extends EU prac­tices to oth­er coun­tries. For more details see the “paper(link to a PDF file, 400k)”:http://www.petergallagher.com.au/assets/PaperGallagherSFO.pdf on Geo­graph­i­cal Indi­ca­tions in Glob­al Dairy Trade WIPO Sym­po­sium. You may also down­load a copy of the pre­sen­ta­tion as a PDF file (360kb).

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