A bridge between past and future
“The best men in all ages keep classic traditions alive.” Spanish philosopher George Santayana could well have had geographical indications (GIs) — legal instruments used to protect traditional manufacturing methods — in mind when he was reflecting on the connection between past and present.
Certainly, GIs have sometimes been ridiculed as just an odd means of protectionism stemming from the old world, far from being suitable for due application in developing or emerging markets. But there is the opposite view: a deeper glance at their economic potential has indeed shown GIs to be a promising and efficient means to promote local goods, precisely in less industrialised areas that are capable of building up new income and employment opportunities.
For instance, the EU with its historical predilection for GIs can willingly be taken as an exemplary benchmark, where the first 70 GIs alone accrue $5 billion in turnover each year (the total being $75 billion per annum for all European GIs). This on account of the fact that 70 percent of consumers are ready to spend between 10 percent and 300 percent more for a good certified as a GI than for a no-origin product.
While Europe is still restricting GI protection to certain foodstuffs and beverages, GIs can readily also cover handicrafts and even services.
It’s no wonder that GIs have long since been recognised as fully-fledged — if still peculiar — IP rights, on par with patents and trademarks. Sixteen out of the 19 Middle East and North Africa (MENA) states have adhered to one or more of the following international treaties recognising GIs:
- 1883 — Paris Convention on the Protection of Industrial Property: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen (16).
- 1891 — Madrid Agreement on the Repression of False or Deceptive Indications of Source: Algeria, Iran, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria and Tunisia (6).
- 1951 — Stresa Convention on the Use of Designations of Origin and names for Cheeses: none.
- 1958 — Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin and their International Registration: Algeria, Iran, and Tunisia (3).
- 1996 — Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS): Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen (10).
- 2008 — The World IP Organization is starting a review of the 1958 Lisbon System in order to make it more attractive to new members. Among the observers are: Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates (8).