Geographical Indications

Local products in a local market

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2010

22 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Content

1 Introduction

2 Geographical Indications: a link between products and their place of origin
2.1 Historical background
2.2 Characteristics
2.3 Functions
2.4 Advantages and disadvantages of Geographical Indications

3 Case studies
3.1 Mexico’s approach to GIs
3.1.1 Tequila - the primary example of Mexican GIs
3.1.2 Legal framework
3.2 Germany’s approach to GIs
3.2.1 EU- vs. German law
3.2.2 Market Analysis

4 Conclusion

5 Appendix: German products in the DOOR-record

6 Bibliography

1 Introduction

Within the last decade the food industry experienced a great quality turn away from industrially produced agricultural to alternative goods labelled for example fair trade or organic farming. Geographical Indication (GI) is also one of those alternative food designations. There are various terms meeting the meaning of GI. The Spanish wine Rioja is designated with the label Denominaci ó n the Origen Controlada (DOC); the Italian cheese Parmigiono Reggiano is marked with a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and the Mexican spirit Tequila is considered as an Appellation of Origen (AO). In this paper I am going to use Geographical Indication as generic term, since the others refer to particular protection systems of different countries. Defining the features of GIs in general, I am going to examine their functions and benefits. Comparing the use of Geographical Indications in Mexico and Germany I want to analyse, if GI-products meet the needs of consumers in today’s globalized market. Drawing the final conclusion I am going to discuss possible ideas of improvement of the present GI-protection systems.

2 Geographical Indications: a link between products and their place of origin

2.1 Historical background

The invention of Geographical Indications can be traced back to European history. Because of its physical characteristics, wine embodies the prototype of a product closely connected to soil (cf. Flury, 2003, p.5). Therefore in 1919 France conceded the first designation of origin to the wine sector (cf. ibid., p.6). Earlier in 1883 the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property was the first major international treaty dealing with patents, marks, trade names and geographical indications. Here the term Appellation of Origin (AO) for agricultural products was first mentioned, but not specified (cf. Giovanucci, Josling, Kerr, O’Connor & Yeung, 2009, p.44). The treaty was signed by 173 contracting states (cf. ibid., p.41). The Madrid Agreement of 1891 extended this protection by prohibiting the use of misleading Geographical Indications and advertisement based on deceptive denominations (cf. Flury, 2003, p.75). As a result of higher standards for protection, until today only 84 parties signed the Madrid Agreement (cf. Giovanucci, Josling, Kerr, O’Connor & Yeung, 2009, p.41). In the Lisbon Agreement of 1958 the 26 signatory parties agreed on the utilization of AO concerning products with particular qualities or characteristics due to their geographical environment. Today worldwide there are 813 products certified with the AO (cf. ibid., p.43). The recent international regulatory framework for GIs is provided by the Trade-related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights of 1994 currently signed by 31 parties1 (c.f. Flury, 2003, p.83). Article 22 of the TRIPS Agreement defines GIs 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 geographical origin.” (World Trade Organisation, 2010)

Furthermore Article 23 of the TRIPS agreement determines a special protection to wines and spirits against fraud and misleading denominations (c.f. Flury, 2003, p.83). Recapitulatory TRIPS guarantees an elaborate protection for wines and spirits, but at the same time there is only a minimum standard of protection for non-alcohol GIs including dishonest competition (c.f. ibid., p.93). Hence in the case of agricultural products other agreements or even national law have a greater importance. Since the TRIPS agreement does not constitute a comprehensive international system of protection for GIs, the majority of the WTO members want to extend Article 23 of the agreement also to non-alcohols. This would respond to the demand for an international register of GIs (cf. Giovanucci, Josling, Kerr, O’Connor & Yeung, 2009, p.42). Thitherto the TRIPS agreement can be considered as a “point of departure for national systems” (ibid., p.42) of protection.

2.2 Characteristics

As already indicated, there are different names used to meet the term Geographical Indication. Nevertheless all of them refer to

“[…] a good as originating in a delimited territory or region where a noted quality, reputation or other characteristics of the good is essentially attributable to its geographical origin and/or the human or natural factors there.“ (ibid., p.5)

To wit a Geographical Indication always implicates an undeviating link between the quality of a product and the specific characteristics of the place of origin. These natural features and the traditional production create a unique good (c.f. ibid., p.6). Even though there are different law frames in the GI-protecting countries, in general natural and human factors are recorded for registration. These descriptions include for example elements of soil, water altitude, temperatures and amount of luminosity. Concerning human factors the particular way of production likewise the ingredients are defined (c.f. ibid., p.16).

Worldwide there are more than 10,000 products, which have a protected Geographical Indication. Their estimated trade value adds up to approximately US$ 50 billion. About 90% of the GI-protected products originate in the 30 OECD2 countries (c.f. ibid., p.xvii). Of 167 countries using Geographical Indications only 111 have special laws to explicitly protect them; the other 56 countries maintain a trademark system3 (c.f. ibid., p.14). Giovanucci, Josling, Kerr, O’Connor & Yeung point out four components for the creation of a successful GI-product: In the first place there is a need for an effective legal protection to prevent damage to one’s reputation by prohibiting fraud and misleading denominations (c.f. ibid., p.xix). Secondly the maintenance of a GI requires strong organizational and institutional structures. To register a GI-product the applicant must elaborate its specific characteristics and processing standards. The sufficient uniqueness of GI-goods facilitates certain marketing strategies (ibid., p.xviii). Additionally a good management is not only necessary to monitor the market concerning fraud (ibid., p.xix), but also years of investment are required until the GI eventually carries a yield (ibid., p.3).

The third component constitutes an equitable participation of producers and enterprises. Not only costs and benefits are supposed to be shared, but also all members of the supply chain should be involved in their particular GI-related decisions. As last factor of success the management needs to find strong business partners, so promotion can lead to a long-term market presence. Meeting these components a GI-product can lead to a market-oriented rural development (ibid., p.xix). I am going to dwell on this aspect explaining the functions of the Geographical Indication system in detail in chapter 2.3.

Eventually Geographical Indications feature three characteristics. They are unique, local and make culture tangible: The uniqueness of GI-products is based on their authenticity and in the course of that certain standards. They depict an alternative to products of the industrialized and therefore homogenized agro-food sector. Hence GIs are considered to be a powerful tool for marketing. Because of the link between product and origin, GIs also support the local economy. Thanks to good reputations they can also stimulate rural development and improve the local livelihood of products. At the same time owing to the traditional methods of processing, GI products make culture tangible. By the recognition of the local customary a certain intercultural exchange is possible. In this manner Geographical Indications function as prime examples of globalization (ibid., p.3).

2.3 Functions

Giovanucci, Josling, Kerr, O’Connor & Yeung (2009, p.xvii) call Geographical Indications an “embodiment of ‘glocalization’”. Using this term they refer to the participation of a product in the global market, whilst fostering the local culture and economy. This fact already implies the multi-functionality of GIs (cf. ibid., p.xvii). Geographical Indications have four purposes: designation, identification, quality assurance and marketing.


1 The European Union as representative for the EU-countries counts as one party.

2 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

3 A trademark is possed by one company as private property. Whereas a GI can be used of various producers as soon as his registration proves, that he meets the necessary characteristics of the production process.

Excerpt out of 22 pages


Geographical Indications
Local products in a local market
European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder)  (Kulturwissenschaftliche Fakultät)
Business Culture in Mexico
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
840 KB
Geographical Indications, Denominación the Origen Controlada, Appellation of Origen, Tequila, European Commission, country-of-origin-effect, food designation, Mexico, Germany, DOOR, Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), Geografische Herkunftsangabe
Quote paper
Stefanie Schumann (Author), 2010, Geographical Indications, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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