Monday, 14 September 2015

Symposium: Geographical Indications in the EU -- Policy aspects and future regulation

Image result for geographical indicationStarting a new week and I am still not able to detach from a symposium that I attended last week. The reason could be that the high standard of the speakers and the friendly debate have woken up my Latin passion. While I am not an expert on GI, I followed every single speaker with such an understanding and desire that I may have found my topic for years to come [watch up Nick!]

Image result for geographical indicationYet, you may wonder why I am covering GI in the EU since this blog is dedicated to Latin America. Well, for a start I was invited to speak in the symposium (I am not sure why if as I said I am not an expert on GI) but it was not until the end of the debate that I realised a key point (I will come to this later on). The majority of speakers while assessing the situation in the EU some extended as to cover international law, bilateral trade agreements, and the basic understanding of what is protected and why, and thus, relevant to any other jurisdiction. Generally, speakers when covering GIs provided opinions on: territorial development and the creation of public goods (Dev Gangjee – University of Oxford)); the principle of coexistence between trade marks and GIs (Gail Evans – Queen Mary University of London); insight field work and stories from farmers and the registration process (Funda Lancaster DEFRA); consumer confusion (Vito Rubino - Universita del Piemonte Orientale); the controversies between EU legislation and national protection (Nicola Coppola aka Nick – University of Bournemouth); the protection of non-agricultural products (Natasha Chick – UK IPO); and the Lisbon system and the Geneva Act (Matteo Gragnani - WIPO). While the speakers focused on these issues there were also some comments or remarks noting sustainable development, know-how, and biodiversity. Actually there were two questions from the audience that were identifying cultural heritage (one coming from a heritage consultant). By writing this remarks you can just grasp the different approaches that one system (GI) may have.

Image result for geographical indication aguadeno hatI was the last speaker and been not an expert on the area I was getting nervous by the minute. My topic was the protection of non-agricultural products in Latin America and perhaps what I brought to the table was something that maybe was not fully addressed by the previous speakers i.e. to preserve and safeguard culture. The point been that while it is important to ‘protect’ meaning preventing unauthorised or inappropriate use (IP negative right), it is also important to connect this protection to conservation of biological diversity and the rights of indigenous peoples. As I undertook to cover Latin America I gave examples from Brazil, Panama, the Andeans countries and Chile. I also indicated that GIs are not for everyone and gave the example of ‘chulucanas’ in Peru (see Rosemary Coombe). Other jurisdictions use IPs as a way to improve their quality of life (trade mark: Coopa Roca (Brazil)); or helping to reconstruct a region (Collective marks: Afloralta (Brazil)); adding value -tourism (Sello de Marca (Chile)); while for example Panama is using a specific sui generis right that helps protecting non-agricultural products GIs. Another issue that I needed to put across was that in some of the Latin American GI’s systems, the product/service become part of the goods of a nation i.e. become state property. This is an important issue since there exists amongst farmers, artisans and indigenous peoples mistrust -- resulting in having less GIs and more collective marks or nothing at all. Many of you may believe that actually when covering cultural heritage the IP regime is actually not appropriate at all, I may be of the same thought, however it is important to realise that for some products, it has helped. It has helped communities into social unity and it has helped us as citizens/consumers to create a sense of pride.

Indeed the conference raised a number of fascinating questions and I thank Nick for putting this symposium all together and for the generous sponsors that made it a reality (Grana Padano and CIIPM).

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