By Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch
A producers’ group lobbying in favour of geographical indications has
issued a preliminary list of candidate GIs in the United States. The
list, released just prior to a World Intellectual Property Organization
negotiation on a possible instrument on GIs, takes a particular look at
The preliminary list of qualifying product names is available here [pdf].
The Organization for an International Geographical Indications Network (oriGIn) has been working on a worldwide compilation
of GIs protected in the world since September 2011, as discussions on
GIs have been stalled at the World Trade Organization for a number of
Geographical indications refer to goods that have a specific
geographical origin from which they derive specific qualities,
reputation or characteristics. In the US, the protection of such goods
is mostly achieved through certification marks, which are trademarks.
Among the examples of prospective GIs mentioned in the OriGIn
document are: Michigan apples, Idaho potatoes, Louisiana shrimp,
Wisconsin ginseng, and North American wild blueberries (specifically a
type found in Maine), Wisconsin cheese, and Florida oranges.
The list was circulated ahead of the next meeting of the WIPO Working
Group on the Development of the Lisbon System, from 29 April-3 May. The
working group is reviewing the international system of the Lisbon
Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and their
International Registration so that it might attract a wider membership,
while preserving the principles and objectives of the Lisbon Agreement,
according to WIPO. A new possible instrument is being discussed and made
positive progress at the last meeting (IPW, WIPO, 7 December 2013).
OriGIn’s preliminary list was authored by Richard Mendelson, director
of the Wine Law and Policy Program and senior research fellow at the
Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, and Zachary Wood, law student
at the University of California Berkeley School of Law. OriGIn has been
working in recent years on building awareness of the value of GIs around
the world, including in countries like the United States that have
traditionally been strong opponents of strengthening GIs in the
Mendelson said in an OriGIn press release
[pdf] that constructing the list was a difficult exercise, as there is
no formal list of GIs in the US. The authors reviewed the American
Viticultural Areas for GI wines as well as registered
geographically-based certification marks. He added that list was not
According to the preliminary list, three “currently recognised
categories of origin products” were reviewed: wines labelled with
American Viticultural Areas, and other goods labelled or advertised with
certification trademarks. The list presently “excludes collective
marks, trademarks that include a geographic name or otherwise refer to a
geographic area, unregistered goods that have a nexus to a specific
place and state and county appellations.” These other GIs candidates are
expected to be reviewed at a later date.
“With all its limitations, we offer this list as a useful beginning
to a conversation about U.S. GIs and a launching point for further
research,” the authors said.