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Upcoming Geographical Indications Presentation

Unofficial Gazette
Why does the wording “geographical indication” appear in Section 2(a)? Why does Section 2(a) specifically mention “wines or spirits”? What’s the relationship between geographical indications in Section 2(a), and terms that may be geographically deceptively misdescriptive under Section 2(e)(3)? These and other questions will be answered during the Patent and Trademark Office Society Education Committee’s lunchtime brown bag presentation on October 31, 2001 in the Alexandria Room of the South Tower from 11:30-12:30. Eleanor Meltzer of the Office of Legislative and International Affairs will present information on a hot topic in international property rights: Geographical Indications.

Recent developments at the World Trade Organization (WTO), in other international forums, and in many bilateral and multilateral free trade agreement negotiations make it important to be familiar with the topic of "geographical indications." Geographical indications are a type of intellectual property, defined as "indications, which identify a good as originating in the territory of a Member, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographic origin." (Article 22(1) of the TRIPS Agreement)

In the United States, examples of geographical indications include "FLORIDA" for oranges; "IDAHO" for potatoes; and "WASHINGTON STATE" for apples. However, some terms have become “generic” and are not extended protection to a geographical indication. As an example, in the United States the word "CHABLIS" is often used to refer to any sort of white wine. Since "CHABLIS" is a generic term in the United States, the United States can continue to permit use of word "CHABLIS" as a synonym for "white wine." (The word "champagne" is another prominent example of a generic term, which in the United States means any light-colored wine with bubbles.)

Geographical indications are valuable to producers from particular regions for the same reasons that trademarks are valuable. First, they are source-identifiers; they identify goods as originating in a particular territory, or a region or locality in that territory. Geographical indications are also indicators of quality; they let consumers know that the goods come from an area where a given quality, reputation, or other characteristic of the goods is essentially attributable to their geographic origin. In addition, geographical indications are business interests; they exist solely to promote the goods of a particular area. Finally, for purpose of the TRIPS Agreement, geographical indications are intellectual property, eligible for relief from acts of infringement and/or unfair competition.

The United States offers robust protection for geographical indications, generally through registration as a certification mark (a type of trademark). Examples of geographical indications protected as certification marks in the United States include: U.S. Registration No. 571,798 (“ROQUEFORT" for cheese - France); U.S. Registration No. 1,632,726 ("DARJEELING" for tea - India); U.S. Registration No. 2,014,628 ("PARMA HAM" for ham products - Italy); U.S. Registration No. 1,570,455 ("SWISS" for chocolate - Switzerland); and U.S. Registration No. 1,959,589 ("STILTON" for cheese – United Kingdom).

The above is largely taken from

Visit the website for more information and bring a sandwich to the presentation on October 31, 2001. PTOS will provide beverages, chips, and dessert