Geograhical Indication (GI) refers to a product which originates from a specific geographical area, and which allows its name to be used by producers located in the designated area only. The concept of GI increases the protection of the reputation that refers to the geographical location and its products. Through the Lisbon Agreement and the Geneva Act, "EU quality products benefit from the protection of GIs and other current and future parties benefit from the EUs membership in the Lisbon system," says EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan. The Geneva Act modernised the 1958 Lisbon Agreement by allowing international organisations, such as the European Union, to join.
To kick off the celebration of this special event, a panel discussion was organised at WIPO to explore how GIs stimulate development, both in Europe as well as other regions. Opening remarks were given by EU Ambassador Walter Stevens, who emphasised how GIs generate economic value, while at the same time they reinforce cultural contributions and reward creativity of authentic know-how. For both reasons, "Protecting Geographical Indications is an EU priority inside and outside of the EU, and one of the corner stones of EU trade policy," Ambassador Stevens said.
EU Ambassador Stevens recalled how the GI system benefits local producers worldwide, specifically with a view to developing countries. Adding on his opening statement, the panel subsequently explored how GIs stimulate the development of and protect developing markets, moderated by the Director of the Lisbon Registry Alexandra Grazioli.
John Clarke, Director of the European's Commission Directorate-General Agriculture and Rural Development recalled that the GI system has developed from a European policy to an attractive tool for countries and producers worldwide to protect their products. He said "We hope that the EU membership to the Geneva Act is a catalyst for other countries to join so that they can get their iconic names rapidly protected in the world’s biggest single market.”
Monique Bagal, International Consultant on GIs, explored the benefits of GIs for nations in Africa on the basis of the example of Penja Pepper for Cameroonian producers, whose protection raised the prices 4x for the benefit of the original producer. Likewise, Fernando Cano Trevino from the Tequila Regulatory Council presented the benefits of protecting the label "Tequila" against falsification. All panellists agreed that the protection provided by the Agreement is an important source for the economic and income stability of local producers, that GIs help to preserve traditions, fosters community spirit, pride and a deep sense of connection in a given geographical area.
After the panel discussion, in an official ceremony, Ambassador Terhi Hakala on behalf of the Finnish Presidency of the European Council, deposited the EU instrument of accession together with WIPO Director General Francis Gurry and EU Commissioner of Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan.
European Commissioner Phil Hogan in his speech said that the EU has been a key player in the preparation and negotiation of the Geneva Act: "Hence, we are delighted to join the Geneva act as a member. With this accession to the Geneva Act, we are reinforcing our commitment to promote food quality and traceability at the international level. This will bring clear benefits to our global partners as well as EU local producers, consumers, growth and jobs.”
With the EU joining the Geneva Act, this also paves the way for the entry into force of the Act: "Today marks a milestone, as the EU joins the Geneva Act on GIs, paving its entry into force! Protecting and promoting our European “rural intellectual property” - Geographical Indications - all over the world has been a big priority for me as Commissioner for Agriculture," said Commissioner Hogan.
Subsequently, Member States invited to see, taste and try some of the over 3000 products, that are now protected on the multilateral level. These include names of wines, spirits and food products from the EU and non-EU countries registered in the EU, such as Gorgonzola, Cava, Comté and Ouzo.
Commission News 26 November: EU becomes member of treaty for better protection of geographical indications
Commission Press Release of 7 October: European Union to join agreement enhancing protection of geographical indications
WIPO Press Release of 26 November: European Union Joins Geneva Act of WIPO’s Lisbon Agreement, Enabling Entry into Force