Expanded UN geographical trademarks to take effect

Geneva (AFP) –


An international system that broadens protections for brands which identify their products based on geographical origin, like Scotch whiskey or Tequila, will come into force after the EU signed on, the UN said Tuesday.

The Geneva Act, part of the Lisbon Agreement on Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications, covers a wide array of products that are closely linked to their place of origin, like Darjeeling tea and Swiss watches.

The UN's World Intellectual Property Organization said the act will come into force in February after the European Union formally acceded.

WIPO chief Francis Gurry said the move would greatly expand "the geographical coverage of this important registration system."

"As interest in the provenance of products grows, protection of appellations of origin and geographical indications benefits consumers demanding authenticity," he added.

Producers will also benefit in a system that allows them to distinguish their products from competitors, Gurry said.

EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan, who was in Geneva for the accession ceremony, said the bloc had "invested more than twenty years' work to develop a successful Geographical Indications policy, protecting the intellectual property of our farmers and food producers at home and abroad."

By joining the Geneva Act, Horgan said, the EU was "reinforcing our commitment to promote food quality and traceability at international level."

The Lisbon Agreement was originally concluded in 1958, but only individual countries were permitted to join.

It also only covered so-called "appellations of origin" for products that are inextricably linked and fully produced in their place of origin, like champagne.

The Geneva Act was adopted on May 20, 2015 to expand on the Lisbon Agreement, by among other things allowing certain intergovernmental organisations, like the EU and the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI), to take part.

It also widens the scope of protection to a broader, less strict array of products within so-called geographical indications, which can also include products made with components from outside the region, like for instance Swiss chocolate, made with cocoa from Peru.

The Act also simplifies the process by allowing the international registration of geographical indications and appellations of origin through a single registration procedure with WIPO.

Together, the Geneva Act and the Lisbon Agreement are commonly referred to as the Lisbon System.