• Trade marks and geographical indications


    The following is a typical example of a frequently encountered question on the difference between Trademarks and Geographical Indications - Answer provided by www.thecoffeeguide.org.

    Question: Trademarks and Geographic Indications: what is the exact difference?

    Source: Processor – Burundi

    Answer: Briefly, trademarks refer to individual goods or services whereas geographic indications indicate the place of origin of something.

    To elaborate:

    • A trademark is a name or sign (logo) used by an enterprise to distinguish its goods and services from those of others. It enables the owner to stop others from using the same trademark but he or she may assign the rights to others, for example against payment of a fee or royalty.
    • A geographic indication on the other hand tells consumers that a product is produced in a certain region or place, and has certain characteristics that are due to that place of origin. All producers who make their products in that place, and whose products share typical qualities, may use it. But producers outside the area covered by the geographic indication may not use that name or logo, even if the quality of their product is the same or better. Therefore, the rights associated with a geographic indication cannot be assigned to parties producing goods outside the place or area the GI covers.

    In other words: a coffee washing station company can register its own trademark for the coffee it produces and exports but, it cannot appropriate the name of the area or region where it is located for this purpose. This is to avoid other producers, from the same area or region, being prevented from also using that name in their sales promotions. Instead, the washing station operators and/or growers in a given area or region could apply jointly to protect that name by registering it as a geographic indication. Once registered, the name can only be used for coffee produced in that area. Darjeeling tea from India and Kona coffee from Hawaii are good examples of such situations.

    There has been trademark abuse in the past in the sense that there have been instances where producers have discovered that someone, somewhere, had registered their area name as a trademark. Thereby making it impossible for the producers located there to use that name themselves, for example when wishing to export direct!

    In most countries it is now quite difficult to register trademarks that lay claim to a geographic name and, in some instances earlier such registrations have been overturned on appeal.
    There is also increasing agitation from Western producers to regain naming control over famous products that have a clear link with a geographical origin as, for example, Parma ham from Parma in Italy. Parma ham is widely produced around the world but the European Union is claiming ownership of the name so as to preclude producers of similar products elsewhere from passing them off as the genuine article.

    A 2005 study confirms that GI’s can bring financial benefits to agricultural producers: for more on this go to http://agritrade.cta.int and use the Search function to look for ‘Geographical Indications and the Challenges for ACP Countries’ as well as other information on this subject.

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