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No boundaries for Geographical indication


From the Brazilian Instituto Nacional da Propiedad Industriale (INPI) we receive news that a service has been granted a Geographical Indication (GI).

On November 27th INPI announced granting GI to services to ‘Porto Digital’ (located in Recife, capital of the State of Pernambuco, Brazil). It becomes the first GI granted to a service in Brazil and now the representatives do have 60 days to pay the prescribed fee and a certificate will be issued, finishing the registration process.

The service entails the climate for innovation that is seen in Pernambuco. It involves the promotion of economic and social changes that institutions, companies, universities and government have been encouraging in the last decades. This has increased the income and employment in the fields of ‘IT and creative economy’.
In this regards, three issues may be brought:
  1. GI for a service: The protection of GI is usually granted to goods/products (not only agricultural products but also handicraft). The Paris Convention, the Lisbon and Madrid Agreements as well as the TRIPS Agreement refer to ‘all products’. Majority of countries grant protection to products meaning only goods, tangible things. Here we notice that the scope of application of the Brazilian Law is more extensive than the scope of the EU system for example, as it applies to services as well. The word ‘product’ then refers as in its full meaning -- coming from the Latin prōductum (something). In fact, there are other countries that grant GI protection to services such as Azerbaijan, Croatia, and Singapore – and now we know that Brazil too.
  2. Definition of GI: Now discussing the issue of what is a GI we notice that it identifies a particular product (in this case a service) as originating from a particular territory because of its quality, reputation and/or characteristic, in other words, its essence –intrinsic to the place. Now, for the information provided by INPI I do not see what makes this service dissimilar from any other project that encourages innovation. What do they have (i.e. characteristic/quality)? And thus, what is the link between the service and the place? The service has the say qualities/reputation because of its place of origin [I am afraid I do not see it]. The only matter that I could find was the actual statement made by ‘Porto Digital’ explaining that they are “ a technological development project that aggregates public investments, private initiative and universities, aiming at the domestic and foreign markets... comprises an innovation system”. This brings my third query. 
  3. GI to a non-geographical territory As perhaps you already spotted, ‘Porto Digital’ is not an actual name of a place. We are used to see geographical names as a GIs-- this is the tradition. However, non-geographical names can be protected as well if they are linked to a particular place – here will be to either Recife( city) or Pernambuco (state). A good example would be Feta as a GI for cheese. Porto Digital is (so it seems) a reputable centre for Information and Communication - it is a technology cluster as it is for example, the ‘Silicon valley’ (California for computer technology) and more appealing to me, ‘Antwerp’ (yep! The diamond centre). Now we have a new one to know of: ‘Proto Digital’ for services in the creative economy.

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